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Very Rare About to Become Rarer WYO?

February 9, 2011

CASPER, Wyo. - The Wyoming Legislature is working to make the state's "very rare or uncommon" landscapes rarer, and in most cases, make them disappear. A bill (HB0152) that has passed in the House and is expected to pass in the Senate soon, would strip the Environmental Quality Council (EQC) of the authority to identify areas for the designation.

Richard Garrett, legislative advocate for the Wyoming Outdoor Council, explains there are some misunderstandings about what the designation does, and does not, do.

"It doesn't restrict access to grazing. It doesn't restrict access to oil and gas leases. It means that an area can't be used to develop, for example, a gravel pit - but even coal mining would still be allowed."

The designation has been on the books since 1973, and has been used to showcase petroglyphs and historical sites, as well as recognize the geologic formations of Adobe Town in the Red Desert. A total of about 200,000 acres have been declared "very rare or uncommon." Those pushing for removing the designations and stopping future ones claim that extractive industries are hobbled by the law, and that the EQC is not an appropriate agency for making the decisions.

Garrett says his group hopes an amendment to the bill is considered to keep current designations in place. Adobe Town is the largest landscape on the list, and Garrett says it's probably one of the best examples of what qualifies as "very rare or uncommon" in Wyoming.

"That definitely applies to Adobe Town. Adobe Town is incredibly unique and I think, wisely, the EQC recognized that and granted the petition."

While there is contentious debate about the law this year, he notes that when it was established decades ago, it was not considered controversial.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY