Local lawmakers request review of state parks planning process, citing Sinks Canyon experience

    Two local lawmakers have asked a legislative committee to study the planning process for Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites, and Trails before the 2024 legislative session.

    The requests were made while the Wyoming Legislature was in the process of passing House Bill 74, creating a trust fund to support outdoor recreation and tourism in the state.

    Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, spoke against the legislation on the Senate floor, citing his experience with the state parks planning process at Sinks Canyon State Park.


    “The fact is, their process isn’t very good,” he said. “They have a policy of development there, and a process for planning that was out of sync with the wishes of the community. … They collect testimony, but what comes out in the master plan is nothing – nothing – like what (the) people testified to.”

    He proposed an amendment to HB 74 that would have required state officials to consider natural resources, historical concerns, wildlife habitats and more as they use the new trust fund to develop outdoor recreation opportunities in the state.

    “I’d like to see some more holistic thinking,” Case said, explaining that most of Sinks Canyon is “designated as critical winter range for our wildlife, so when proposals come forth to have development and more activity … folks around my neck of the woods (get) concerned.”

    “Let’s have a process that is respectful (and) robust.”


    His proposal was initially adopted, but it was removed from the legislation through a later amendment and then failed to pass when Case brought it up again, reiterating his request for a “more formal process from this agency (to) allow for more public comment and participation.”

    Interim topic

    Case made a similar request to the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee during its interim topics meeting.

    Case wasn’t present at the meeting, but state parks director Darin Westby spoke about the topic, noting that his team would “wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to showcase what our agency does on a planning process (and) every step that we go through to try to engage the public.”


    “Now, let’s be honest – sometimes your input (is) taken, but we may not go that direction, and that may cause some issues personally,” Westby said. “(But) the existing planning process is significantly detailed and oriented to ensure that we get the most public input.”

    Wyoming Rep. John Winter, R-Thermopolis, also asked the committee to study the state parks planning process during the interim on behalf of a Fremont County constituent who “has some concerns about them not knowing what state parks is doing relative to some of these state parks in the state.”

    “I just would express my willingness to help them however (I can) to resolve this, if there is a problem,” Winter said.


    Hunting procedures

    Winter also proposed a study of non-resident hunting procedures for bighorn sheep and moose during the interim, asking the committee to “discuss it more and get more input from the Game and Fish Department relative to this problem.”

    “The preference points and the bonus point systems are not working,” he said. “We just need to get a different approach to this, (and) I just have a feeling that we need to go back to random draw. Every time we start playing games with this stuff, it ends up in a mess.”

    Game and Fish director Brian Nesvik said Winter “characterized the problem well.”

    “The system is not going to work in its current form forever,” he said. “Particularly for bighorn sheep, the average age of the person drawing those licenses is increasing every year. It’s now at 57, and if it continues forever like that, pretty soon the only folks … able to draw are 70-, 80-year-old people who have just been (in) the system a long time.”

    The situation makes it difficult “to convince a young person right now to get into the point system, because your chances of drawing are so slim,” Nesvik explained.

    “Under the existing system (it) disincentivizes youth from putting in,” he said. “We need to look at it.”

    Crosswalk safety

    The committee also considered studying active transportation options and crosswalk safety during the interim topics meeting.

    Senate File 35, which would have allocated $10 million to school crosswalk infrastructure in the state, failed to pass the legislature this year, but Wyoming Pathways board member Jerimiah Rieman said his group is “very interested in continuing to work with all of you” on the subject.

    “We think there are a lot of communities that need this support and a lot of children, frankly, that need support in getting to their school safely,” he said.

    The committee’s next meeting is scheduled to take place June 12-13 in Evanston.


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