When federal land managers began discussing a "blueprint" of the various land management plans that knit the greater Yellowstone ecosystem together, they hoped it would enhance administration of those lands.
By viewing the management plans for two national parks and six national forests in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho as a whole, the overall management of the individual reserves could improve, the managers figured.But the "Vision for the Future" document that represents that blueprint is being assailed in Wyoming by multiple-use advocates who fear it will curtail logging, minerals development and other commercial uses on the national forests.
And while environmentalists and conservationists largely agree the document states some worthy goals, not all agree it goes far enough in protecting the ecosystem sprawling across Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the Shoshone, Bridger-Teton, Custer, Beaverhead, Gallatin and Targhee national forests from wanton development.
Yellowstone Superintendent Bob Barbee is one of the land managers who has been alternately criticized and praised for his work in drafting the document and is acutely aware of the nerves that are exposed when talk turns to public-lands management in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
"This has attracted a tremendous amount of attention, so a lot of people care how this area is managed," he said recently. "We've tried for years to get people interested in this . . . . All of a sudden it takes off and people seem to take notice of it."
People are taking notice of the vision document. Hundreds have turned out throughout Wyoming for meetings to discuss the document, and they haven't always blunted their interpretations of the proposal.
"It clearly regards private property rights as irrelevant," Roger Viets, president of the Teton County Heritage Society, said when the document came to Jackson. "It regards true multiple use as irrelevant. It regards the human cost of lost jobs and displaced workers as irrelevant."
Harold Turner, brother of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director John Turner and a Teton County outfitter, was optimistic when he heard of the document but scared when he read it.
"For many years, the outfitters have fought hard for this kind of document, where recreation and wildlife are top priorities," he said at the Jackson meeting. "Now that we have that document, it scares us to death."
Because the document is vague "it can mean anything to anyone," Turner said.
The executive director of the Wyoming Heritage Society, Bill Schilling, said the document, if implemented, would doom economic development in the forests surrounding Yellowstone.
"The `vision' clearly clamps down on economic activity and will suffocate local economies, schools and responsible working people who care as much or more about the environment as the forest and park services," said Schilling.
Ed Lewis, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, praises the concept of the document but believes it needs significant revision.
"The goals of this vision are commendable. Some of the implementing criteria come up short and lack the teeth necessary to get the job down," he said. "The vision needs to be strengthened in a few respects. It should specifically preclude development activity where it is clear it will negatively impact greater Yellowstone's wildlife, recreation opportunities, scenic vistas, fisheries, watersheds and geothermal features."
Barbee has attended several of the public meetings and listened to the criticisms and praise and found himself defending those who drafted the document.
"We're not trying to foreclose commodity users or lock this place up," he told those who turned out in Cody.
The goal of the document, Barbee said in an interview, is to see that the management activities of the Forest Service, Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service mesh smoothly together.
"We all have a responsibility, we feel a responsibility to work in certain areas as one," he said. "The concern is we each have an agency mission . . . Collectively the public land managers in this greater Yellowstone realize their responsibility to coordinate their efforts to accomplish their business."