RBC I Rio Blanco County Commissioner Jon Hill joined 500 county officials at the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Western Interstate Region (WIR) conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., from May 25-27.
In partnership with Teton County and the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, the conference brought together nationally renowned experts, state and federal policy leaders and county officials from across the country.
With critical legislative and regulatory issues being debated in the nation’s capital, county leaders discussed issues particularly important to Western communities, including: ensuring certainty in federal county payments through the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs; new regulations proposed by the Bureau of Land Management that could substantially affect counties containing federal public lands; and strengthening local infrastructure.
“It is unique, but we can learn from one another to address the challenges counties and residents face; it’s also important for Rio Blanco County to have a role in shaping key federal policies that affect us every day,” said Hill. “Much of the information presented at the conference will help our efforts at home.”
WIR President Gordon Cruickshank, Valley County, Idaho, commission chair, said, “Western county leaders work every day to pursue opportunities aimed at improving the quality of life for our residents. The issues facing Western counties are as diverse as the Western landscape itself. The WIR Conference focused on strengthening public and private sector partnerships to achieve results for our residents.”
The conference brought together national experts, state and federal policy leaders and county officials from across the country. Featured speakers included Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, U.S. Interior Department Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze and Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela.
Educational workshops focused on priority issues including: Responding to active shooter incidents; Addressing local road safety; Managing public lands; Maintaining cybersecurity; Creating fire-adapted communities; Fostering economic development, and Leveraging technology to expand access to health services.
Commissioner Hill stated “I had the opportunity to speak with Neil Kornze, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, on range issues in Rio Blanco County. I also testified in a listening session on BLM Planning 2.0. This is a plan in progress that appears to diminish the role that local government has in BLM planning. My testimony stated that the residents of Rio Blanco County should have the first input into any federal plan, also that the plan itself did not recognize the BLM’s responsibility to local governments as dictated by the Federal Land Management Policy Act, and lastly that writing the handbook first appeared to be pre-decisional.”
WIR serves as the counties’ advocate for public policy issues affecting the West. WIR is affiliated with the NACo and is dedicated to the promotion of Western interests within NACo. These interests include public lands issues such as land use and conservation, community stability and economic development and the promotion of the traditional Western way of life.
WIR’s membership consists of the state associations of counties in 15 Western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
WIR serves as a valuable resource for exchanging information about Western county governments for NACo, Congress, the Administration and to county officials nationwide.