Guest column: Expert input needed for good decisions

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Chris Lacinak refers in the Nov.6 issue of the Pinedale Roundup to the disparaging statements made about the Wyoming Game and Fish by Dennis Fornstrom regarding its input into a case being deliberated by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Mr. Lacinak, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, state he was disturbed by Mr. Fornstrom’s comments and we believe rightly so.

As Mr. Lacinak points out, Game and Fish provide expert input that is valuable to zoning decisions, especially in the context of complicated decisions that are presently being deliberated in Sublette County.

Without access to non-biased expert input, the decision-making process of the Sublette County Planning and Zoning Commission and BOCC risks becoming non-objective, pure and simple. There is a complexity in the landscape of decision making which requires input from “subject matter experts,” as we used to say in the Army. These decisions are complicated and idiosyncratic and zoning changes have pervasive implications in setting the trajectory in Sublette County. There are a multitude of factors, many based on scientific facts, which must be considered in the decision-making process.

The article left us asking ourselves: Does each person, as an individual on these boards, have the expertise to speak on these multitude of factors, which must be considered for each case presented? Is Mr. Fornstrom the subject matter expert on wildlife migration in the county and is his position designed to to advise on such matters? I think many residents in the county may be pondering these same questions.

Yet upon making county decisions, these individuals and collective bodies are required tom speak to the “finding of fact.”

The finding of fact must buttress their decisions; otherwise they do not meet their obligation to the citizens of Sublette County in executing their duties.

We propose, in cases where county departments do not have required expertise, the county departments should have a mechanism in place to hire expert advice that is compensated by the applicant but certainly not selected by the applicant. Consulting with and using the timely input from subject matter experts is fundamental in the process of maintaining objectivity based on facts for contentious cases the Planning and Zoning Commission and the BOCC have before them for consideration. In our opinion, the process appears especially problematic because the county seems to be forced to do their own “best analysis” in areas they have no expertise in or rely on input from “experts” paid for by the applicant.

This has led to traffic studies that utilize no data but maintain traffic will not be impacted; citing economic cost-benefit analyses that consider benefits but consider no costs; providing problematic assessments of impacts on migratory corridors and confusion about the regulations governing those corridors based on personal feelings rather than scientific facts; and failures in consistently providing and disseminating information to the public in a timely manner. For example, in the Moyes Pape/40 Rod Road hearing, Game and Fish data was only available at the Planning and zoning meeting and no report was provided in advance of that meeting.

We believe expert input from Game and Fish, and any subject matter expert, is an asset to county planning, not a threat. Due to the limitations of time and sheer quantity of business to execute, the staff, volunteers and commissioners of the county cannot possibly be expected to provide this essential input alone.

Yet the decisions that affect the future of our county require it.

Rather than presenting personal feelings that a professional expert “got in the middle of it,” our county leaders should be working toward a system that will welcome and quickly access impartial professional subject matter expertise to assist and advise.

Sublette County leaders could enhance the quality of life of every citizen by utilizing subject matter experts to assure the decisions they make are objective and based on verified facts. Additional professional expert input as needed is an essential requirement that supports sound deliberation and decision making.

Personal feelings and unverified statements have no place in decisions that control the fate of our county and its citizens.

Future growth and development are inevitable; making the right decisions requires having the current and correct information for these decisions, which at times requires more than those elected and appointed. Designing a mechanism to allow unbiased, verified, factual input to be utilized by our elected and appointed officials should be the No. 1 priority at this time.

Respectfully submitted,

Major Bob Charles, (Ret) USAR,

Mary O’Neill Charles CPT, USAR,