WPLI: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative?
The Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) is a collaborative, county-led process intended to result in one, multi-county legislative lands package that is broadly supported by public lands stakeholders in Wyoming, and advanced to the Congressional delegation for introduction in Congress. The ultimate goal is a new federal law that governs the designation and management of Wyoming’s 42 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and 3 U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in Wyoming; and, where opportunities exist, addresses other public land management issues affecting the broader landscape.

Why are we undertaking the WPLI now, and why the counties?  
WSAs were intended to be temporary designations.  These temporary designations have persisted for more than three decades.  The WPLI provides a process for all interested stakeholders to help create certainty about these lands in our state by agreeing upon more permanent land uses or designations.  In addition, the WPLI provides an opportunity to address other long-standing public land management issues affecting the broader landscape.  Counties are the natural starting point for these discussions because they are closest to the people and places under consideration.  While to many WSAs and public lands are an abstract concept, to counties they are an everyday reality.  

What kinds of designations will be discussed?    
Designations in federal law could include Wilderness, release of WSA status back to BLM or USFS multiple use, or some other designation that promotes certain activities.  For example, National Recreation Areas, National Conservation Areas, or even other potential designations not necessarily envisioned to date.  The County advisory teams and input from the public will be the idea generator on designations that make sense for that county.

Can non-WSA related land management and resource issues be addressed in the WPLI?  
Certainly. WSA designations are identified in the WCCA’s WPLI Principles and Guidelines as the “launching pad” and “anchor” for the WPLI.  In some areas of Wyoming, it may be appropriate to focus the discussion around WSAs only, and any resulting recommendation would reflect that.  In those areas, the WSAs are the anchor for discussion.  However, where opportunities exist to bring in other land management and resource challenges forward for resolution, county advisory teams are encouraged to look at those opportunities for inclusion in any resulting recommendation.  There is nothing magic about the original boundaries of the WSAs, so in places where it makes sense to broaden the discussion, the WSAs are a launching pad.

What is the role of the Board of County Commissioners?  
The Board of County Commissioners in a county that is participating in the WPLI will be the first elected body to receive and vote on recommendations by the county’s Advisory Committee.  The Board of County Commissioners will vote to either approve, deny, or remit back to the Advisory Committee for further discussion, any recommendation forwarded by that county’s WPLI Advisory Committee.  

What is the role of the WPLI Advisory Committee?  
The Advisory Committee will be charged with gathering background information and current data on the WSAs within the county; and if the opportunity exists, consider additional resource uses, inventories, and management for the given landscape.  The Advisory Committee may also take input from the public and public lands stakeholders, including specific recommendations any individual or entity proposes for the designation of WSAs or other lands under consideration.  The Advisory Committee will consider and evaluate all information in the development of a recommendation for advancement to that county’s Board of County Commissioners for consideration.

What should the Advisory Committee consider when formulating a recommendation?  
The WPLI Principles and Guidelines provides some examples for Advisory Committee consideration when developing a recommendation.  The WPLI is designed to look local first and respect the opportunities identified and the priorities assigned to those opportunities at the county level.  Accordingly, the Advisory Committee will be expected to develop a proposed management recommendation--and supporting rationale--for the WSAs within the county, as well as any other opportunities addressing land management or resource challenges forwarded for consideration to the Board of County Commissioners in that county.

Who will participate on the WPLI Advisory Committee?
Diverse representation on the Advisory Committee is imperative for the ultimate success of the WPLI.  The specific make-up of the committee and the number of members will be left to the discretion of the participating county’s Board of County Commissioners; however, it is expected that the Advisory Committee include participation by major stakeholders interested in the subject of public land management and potential designations.  A county commissioner will also sit on the WPLI Advisory Committee.

How often will the Advisory Committee meet?  
The participating counties will determine this based on their specific needs.  Visit the participating county website or sign-up for email notifications at the WPLI Information Hub for notice of public meetings and up-to-date information.

How can I participate in the WPLI effort if my group is not on the WPLI Advisory Committee?  
The WPLI is an open process.  It is intended that Advisory Committee meetings be open to the public with an opportunity for public comment.   Minutes will be taken and posted along with any documentation produced by or circulated among the Advisory Committee on the participating county’s website and the WCCA’s WPLI Information Hub.  Members of the public are encouraged to provide commentary on topics being discussed by the Advisory Committee and are encouraged to submit proposals for its consideration.  Advisory Committee members who represent a stakeholder interest are expected to establish and maintain an active dialogue with members of that interest group.

How will third-party or non-WPLI participant recommendations be treated?  
Information and recommendations from third-party or non-WPLI participants are welcome and will be considered and incorporated at the sole discretion of a WPLI participating county.  Such recommendations can only be attached to the WPLI upon the election of a participating county.  And this can only occur by advancing the recommendation via the deliberative process as identified in a participating county’s charter and in conformance with WPLI Principle & Guidelines. Regardless of their inclusion in a county’s deliberative process, third-party and non-WPLI participant submitted information and recommendations relevant to the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative will be posted on the WPLI Information Hub. 

What is the role of the WCCA, the Governor, and the federal delegation in the WPLI?  
The WCCA staff, the office of the Governor, the offices of the federal delegation, and any third-party consultant engaged by the WCCA may attend meetings and field trips, to support and work with the Advisory Committee and Board of County Commissioners to ensure timely consideration of the issues in the county, and to assist in coordination with other counties in a regional effort. Following receipt of county recommendations, the WCCA in conjunction with the office of the Governor and the federal congressional delegation, will review the recommendations for consistency with existing federal laws and regulations, the effectiveness of local collaboration and level of stakeholder support, and develop one legislative bill based on county recommendations for introduction in the U.S. House and Senate.  

What role, if any, will state agencies play?  
State agencies may have data; special expertise for a specific area under consideration; or, in the case of wildlife, jurisdiction.  The Board of County Commissioners and the Advisory Committee can determine how state agencies participate and request their assistance.

What role do the federal agencies have in the WPLI?
The federal agencies role is to provide, as appropriate and at the request of the Board of County Commissioners and the Advisory Committee, an encyclopedic understanding of the landscape and associated resources and uses.  The federal agencies can also provide assistance insofar as gaining a better understanding and appreciation of existing congressionally created programs that may better capture Advisory Committee recommendations that do not fall within the bright lines of Wilderness or otherwise necessitating hard-release as outlined in the WPLI Principles and Guidelines. Despite the federal agencies participation in the WPLI as encyclopedic advisors, the agencies will not be members of any decision-making or recommendation-providing body.

What is the timeframe for the WPLI?  
Counties participating in the WPLI should strive to put in place the Advisory Committee during the spring and early summer of 2016. Field trips to WSAs and other lands of interest should commence in the spring/summer/fall of 2016. Further work on recommendations and specific agreements should be developed, with additional field trips established in 2017. Final recommendations should be advanced to the WCCA in early 2018.

What happens if there is disagreement surrounding a recommendation that is forwarded to the Board of County Commissioners for consideration?
The most desired outcome of the work of the WPLI Advisory Teams is to advance recommendations that the Advisory Team agrees to as a whole.  During the recommendation drafting phase the Advisory Team, with help from multiple outside sources, is expected to seek agreement.  Consensus among every interested person inside and outside Wyoming is an unrealistic expectation.  However, WPLI is intended to be an open and transparent process that includes enough diversity of interests that agreement among the Advisory Teams should signal that a meaningful compromise has been accomplished.  If disagreements do exist, they will be known and supporting rationale supporting both sides should be available to the Board of County Commissioners and the public.  If disagreements are too vast for an Advisory Team to reach agreement, first every effort will be made to bridge those disagreements; if those efforts are unsuccessful, that county will not be included in the final legislative package.

Since I don’t really trust that {fill in the person or group you don’t trust} has the best interests of {fill in the people, lands, or animals you represent} in mind, why should I participate?  
Perhaps this is the best question of all.  The designation of Wyoming’s federal lands, particularly those caught in limbo as temporary WSAs, is so important to so many different voices that without broadly supported legislation, creating certainty for any particular desired outcome is nearly impossible. The WPLI is a process, not a pre-determined outcome.  It is a mechanism for all stakeholders to develop a collective proposal and corresponding law to govern public land in Wyoming. Participation is optional, but it presupposes that you first see an opportunity to advance your own cause, next are willing to advocate for your desires and listen to the desires of others, and make a good faith effort at a final product where everyone wins.

What is the expected role of third-party facilitators in the WPLI process?
Third-party facilitators can help participating county WPLI Advisory Committees on a range of process-related issues (e.g., charter development, issue-specific facilitation, conducting situational assessments to inform the decision-making process).  Use of third-party facilitators can be both proactive (before issues arise) or reactive (after issues have arisen).  Each participating county’s needs are unique; therefore, it is expected that each county will have a process that reflects a county’s unique needs while still adhering to the general prescriptive elements found in the WPLI Principles and Guidelines.

At the end of the day, and after receiving the counsel of the WPLI Advisory Committee, it is up to the Board of County Commissioners in the WPLI participating county to determine the involvement and the scope of involvement of any third-party facilitator.   

Where can I find out more on the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative?  
Up-to-date information on the WPLI can be found by visiting the WPLI Information Hub. There you will find, among other things, a list of participating counties, county-specific process and guideline information, Advisory Team membership information, meeting minutes, maps and documents, notices for public meetings, proposals submitted to an Advisory Committee, and the WPLIPrinciples and Guidelines.