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Wyoming Wilderness History, Politics and Perceptions Topic of Presentation at UW

August 29, 2014

A half-century of wilderness in Wyoming will be recognized during a panel discussion and reception Wednesday, Sept. 10, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture auditorium.

The program, “The Wyoming Wilderness Act 1984–2014: History, Politics, and Perceptions,” commemorates both the 50th anniversary of the federal Wilderness Act signed into law Sept. 3, 1964, and the 30th anniversary of the Wyoming Wilderness Act that became law in 1984.

The panel features five speakers who will bring diverse perspectives on wilderness to the discussion. Steve Smutko, Spicer Chair for Collaborative Practice at the UW Haub School and Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, will moderate the discussion.

Live streaming will be available at by clicking on “panel discussion” under “The Wyoming Wilderness Act 1984-2014.” A reception will follow the panel discussion in the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center lobby. The event is free and open to the public.

Panelists are:

-- Joel Bousman, a fourth-generation Wyoming cattle rancher who developed a permittee monitoring system for public lands grazing.

-- Bart Koehler, co-founder of the Wyoming Wilderness Association and a lifelong wilderness advocate.

-- Margi Schroth, owner and operator of the HF Bar Guest Ranch, which abuts a citizens’ recommended wilderness area in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains.

-- Retired U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, a sponsor of the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act.

-- Ralph Swain, Wilderness Program manager for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

“The panelists at the Wyoming Wilderness Act 1984-2014 event will reflect on what wilderness means for Wyoming citizens today and explore questions about wilderness management and new wilderness designations in a changing world,” says Emilene Ostlind, UW Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources communications coordinator.

The Wilderness Act defined wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wilderness areas must be congressionally designated, and can be administered by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service or other federal agencies. They are managed to provide a primitive experience for visitors. Structures, developments and motorized or mechanized equipment are not allowed.

“Wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use,” the act states. To that end, activities including camping, backpacking, horse packing and livestock grazing are allowed.

Wyoming’s first three wilderness areas designated with passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act were the Bridger, North Absaroka and Teton wilderness areas, located in mountain ranges of northwest Wyoming. Wyoming gained three more wilderness areas in the 1970s: the Washakie, Fitzpatrick and Savage Run wilderness areas.

In 1977, the second Roadless Area Review and Evaluation identified 15 million acres of national forest land with wilderness characteristics. Several states, including Wyoming, started working on wilderness bills that would set aside some of these areas as designated wilderness and open other areas for different types of management.

U.S. Sens. Alan Simpson and Malcom Wallop and Rep. Dick Cheney sponsored the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act, which initially proposed to designate an additional 480,000 acres of wilderness in Wyoming. Wilderness advocates rallied statewide support to expand that acreage and, in 1982, public hearings in Casper and Riverton gave many Wyoming citizens the opportunity to speak their minds about the proposed wilderness bill. Ultimately, the Wyoming Wilderness Act added 880,000 acres to the Wyoming wilderness system in eight new wilderness areas, five wilderness area expansions and three wilderness study areas.

In the last 30 years, no additional wilderness designations have been added to Wyoming lands.

The Wilderness Society, the Wyoming Wilderness Association, the Sierra Club Wyoming Chapter, the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and the UW Ruckelshaus Institute will host the program.

Stough Creek Basin in the Popo Agie Wilderness area in the Wind River Range. The Wyoming Wilderness Act added 880,000 acres to the Wyoming wilderness system in eight new wilderness areas, five wilderness area expansions and three wilderness study areas.

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Chad Baldwin

Institutional Communications

Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929


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