Commissioners set Sublette WPLI public hearing for Sept. 4

SUBLETTE COUNTY – After receiving three proposals – each containing three options – for the county’s three wilderness study areas, Sublette County Commissioners will come up with their own recommendation and hold a public hearing on Sept. 4.

The three wilderness study areas are Lake Mountain, on which Sublette’s Wyoming Public Lands Initiative citizen committee reached general agreement. The Shoal Creek and Scab WSA proposals stalled after seven of eight members voted against total wilderness for Scab Creek, as preferred by an eighth member. For at least one member, coming to agreement and voting on the Shoal Creek WSA hinged on how they voted for Scab Creek.

At the Aug. 28 meeting, commissioners agreed to work together toward one proposal to present to the public. Joel Bousman chaired the meeting with Mack Rawhouser, Tom Noble and David Burnett in place of chair Andy Nelson, who was absent.

“At some point, if we are to do anything other than ignore it, we have to have a public hearing,” Bousman said.

He explained to the others that the commission needs to write and propose its own WSA recommendation and hold the public hearing for people to comment on their proposal. The county’s overarching land use policy takes a stance for multiple uses and against additional wilderness.

“We’ll make our recommendation so the public knows ahead of time,” he added. “My recommendation is short and sweet.”

Bousman asked county clerk Mary Lankford to set aside one hour on the Sept. 4 meeting’s agenda.

“Our recommendation cannot be carved in stone,” Rawhouser said, asking about someone bringing up a good idea. “I want to be open-minded enough to hear what they have to say about our proposal, one way or the other.”

“We as commissioners could discuss that,” agreed Burnett.

Several commissioners said they’ve heard loud and clear that wilderness groups are set to take court action to a high level if they propose releasing the WSAs to multiple-use.

The Sublette WPLI advisory committee met for nearly two years. The goal of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association was for local committees to explore WSA management options across the state and fold them into one legislative package.

The WSAs were designated by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service several decades ago and cannot be released or altered without legislative or agency actions.

Sublette co-chairs Dan Smitherman (conservation) and Coke Landers (ranching) submitted three sets of proposals along with members’ straw votes and statements of disagreement to the county in June.

Members were Smitherman, Landers, Mike Smith (energy), Mike Henn (Sublette County Conservation District), Mike Crosson (sportspeople), Monte Skinner (nonmotorized recreation), Bill Lanning (motorized recreation) and Dave Bell (general public).

UW Ruckelshaus Institute facilitator Steve Smutko has not responded to a request for updated information.

Check the Sublette County website for the posting of commissioners’ and Sublette WPLI proposals and members’ opposition statements.

Go to, under “Departments” select County Commissioners and then “WPLI.”

Another site used by the committee,, has past documents, maps and the last set of proposals given to commissioners.

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