'National treasures'

Sam Coker mountain bikes Thursday afternoon near the Tie City Trailhead. Coker said the he uses the trails a couple of times a week.

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

Residents and organizations that support Wyoming’s public lands are planning a rally Saturday to generate enthusiasm for the creation of an official Wyoming Public Lands Day.

Keep it Public: A Rally for Wyoming Public Lands is set for noon-4 p.m. Saturday at the Lincoln Community Center, 365 W. Grand Ave. The free event will include food, drinks, family activities, live music and speakers. Proceeds from an outdoor gear raffle and drink sales will benefit the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Access Yes program.

Laramie Mayor Andi Summerville, Albany County Commissioner Tim Chesnut and Wyoming Wildlife Federation public lands coordinator Jessi Johnson are scheduled to speak at the event. Johnson was recently featured in Outside Magazine for advocacy on behalf of hunting by women.

A coalition called Keep It Public, Wyoming is organizing the event. The coalition formed recently in order to oppose legislative efforts to transfer management of public lands to states.

“It’s a very diverse group of citizens, organizations, business owners and people who love public lands in Wyoming,” said Chris Merrill, associate director of Wyoming Outdoor Council. “(They’re) getting together first of all to celebrate public lands, and also to rally support for the idea of keeping public lands in public hands.”

Merrill said a member of the coalition will speak at the rally about potential legislation to form Wyoming Public Lands Day, possibly to take place on the last Saturday of September.

Members of the coalition are united in their belief that public lands in Wyoming belong to everyone, Merrill said.

“Public lands are national treasures, and they’re part of our shared national heritage,” he said. “They represent the best of what our country can offer.”

Colorado and Nevada created statewide public lands holidays in 2016 and 2017, and National Public Lands Day has been recognized on the last weekend of September since 1994.

According to the latest report from the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Wyoming generated $5.6 billion in consumer spending in 2016. It also generated $1.6 billion in wages and $514 million in state and local tax revenue.

Recreation directly supports 50,000 jobs in Wyoming, according to the report.

“Outdoor recreation is Wyoming’s fastest growing industry, and that industry is almost entirely based on access to public lands,” Merrill said.

Ken Cramer, who owns Cross Country Connection, an outdoor gear store in downtown Laramie, said his business depends almost entirely on the ability of customers to recreate on public lands.

“If we want to ski, hike, climb, camp — public land is where we’re going,” he said. “That’s part of why living in the West is so great because we do have access to public land and open space where we can do things.”

Cramer said he supported efforts by Keep it Public, Wyoming to engage public support.

“The more people that are involved and the more obvious it is that a huge majority cares about this, the better our legislators will understand what they should do,” he said.

Keep it Public, Wyoming is planning rallies in other cities in the fall.

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