Interior secretary visits Fremont Co., tribes

Clair McFarland, Riverton Ranger via Wyoming News Exchange
Posted 8/16/21

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Fremont County on Thursday to meet tribal and state leaders.

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Interior secretary visits Fremont Co., tribes


RIVERTON — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Fremont County on Thursday to meet tribal and state leaders. 

Within hours of Haaland’s visit, the Shoshone and Arapaho Intertribal Council issued an order mandating masks both inside and outdoors on the reservation to combat rising coronavirus numbers. 

Exceptions to the mandate are private offices where six feet of social distance is possible. 

The mandate also limits all public reservation buildings to 25 percent capacity and orders proof of vaccination to be supplied by all individuals working within buildings containing juveniles on the reservation. 

The tribes have not issued a statement on the meeting with Haaland, and it’s not known if she advised the mandate or whether the announcement was merely coincidental.

Haaland was slated to attend a dedication ceremony of the Wind River Veterans Memorial at 10:30 that morning, but was delayed and did not make the ceremony. 

However, she arrived in Lander in the afternoon and met with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and a handful of legislators within a hangar at Hunt Field. 

Legislators spotted by The Ranger after the sit-down included State Sens. Cale Case, R-Lander, and Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, both members of the Legislature’s Committee on Tribal Relations, as well as State Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, and Andrea Clifford, D-Ethete, and State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, co-chairman of the Tribal Relations Committee. 

The legislators left the meeting by about 2 p.m., after which Haaland and her staff remained in the hangar with Gordon and his staff until about 3 p.m. 

According to a statement issued by Gordon hours later, the two officials discussed the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons initiative, migration corridors, and energy projects. 

“This has been a valuable opportunity for the Secretary to see firsthand the critical nature of federal lands for Wyoming people. I appreciated her taking the time to be here and to listen to Wyoming perspectives on how her Department has significant impacts on the lives of those who live, work and recreate on federal lands,” Gordon said. “One key topic for me was our energy and mining industries. I continue to stress how much the mineral industry has done for our state, its importance to our economy, and the impacts and issues created by the Biden administration’s actions.” 

In his statement, Gordon also urged Secretary Haaland to hold the Bureau of Land Management’s postponed March and June 2021 oil and gas lease sales. 

In June, a judge blocked the Biden administration’s oil and gas leasing pause on federal lands.

The pair also discussed the governor’s migration corridor executive order designed to safeguard mule deer and pronghorn populations while protecting private property rights. 

Gordon emphasized the state’s efforts to work with industry partnerships to protect wildlife and minimize on-the-ground disturbance. 

Other topics included: the importance of federal lands in Wyoming; invasive species’ impact on habitat; endangered species; state-led management of grizzly bears; the Bureau of Reclamation; and the Wyoming sage-grouse plan. 

After meeting with Gordon, Haaland visited the Wind River Indian Reservation to meet with both the northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes in an intertribal council.