State slow to answer Moskee access questions
Side roads may be closed to curb usage
May 7, 2020
Concerns have gone unanswered regarding what will happen to the Moskee land recently acquired by the state, according to Commissioner Jeanne Whalen. On Monday, Whalen stated that the county’s questions about usage and road closures have never been addressed.
“We attended the public meeting and state lands did not answer any of our questions,” she said, noting that the state had said it would not need to follow the county’s land use plan and would not be coordinating with Crook County.
A major question still hanging out there, Whalen said, is how the state can say there will be no surface disturbance allowed on the land, but yet it must still be used to make money.
“We questioned how it could be multiple use and yet have no surface disturbance,” she said. Two letters have been sent to the state, including requests for Crook County Weed & Pest Supervisor Andrew Litzel to be included in any planning and an inquiry as to whether any of the roads within the land’s borders will be closed.
The commission feels like anything it has sent down to the state is being ignored, Whalen said.
State Forester Dick Terry spontaneously called into the meeting at the request of County Attorney Joe Baron, and was able to share insight into the current status of the 4349 acres located in the Grand Canyon area, around seven miles east of Sundance.
“The Moskee land was purchased by the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI), so it’s now state trust land,” he said, referring to the announcement in March that the transaction was officially complete.
“They are planning on writing a plan on exactly how to deal with the land and the grazing.”
Terry was unsure exactly where in the process the plan currently sits, but said the state is working right now to get all the grazing leases lined out.
“Who is going to be involved in writing this natural resource plan?” Whalen asked.
Terry explained that, to his knowledge, the plan will be a collaboration between State Forestry, Wyoming Game & Fish, Weed & Pest and OSLI.
“It should be an all-encompassing plan,” he said.
Terry was able to clarify that, by “surface disturbance”, the state is referring to such enterprise as gravel pits and surface mining. This does not include such activity as timber sales.
On the basis that this is the first time the county has heard an explanation, Whalen commented that, “We’d kind of like to see it in writing.”
Regarding the closure of roads, Terry said that would mainly affect some of the side roads, and is being considered in order to temporarily curb recreational use by four-wheeled vehicles.
“The main roads are going to remain open…it’s just some of the side trails, to protect resource values,” he said.
The land will still be open for hunting, and there are few parts of it that cannot be reached relatively quickly from the main roads, Terry said, but the closures of side roads would prevent people from driving all over it from the get-go. The emergency closure would remain in place until the state figures out which roads will remain in use and which will be accorded recreational access, because it’s harder to shut down usage once people get used to driving on certain roads.
The commission would still like to be involved in planning and would like the questions sent to the state to be answered officially, Whalen said. To make that happen, she said, “We will continue on.”