May 5, 2020
Opinions, Wyoming

Preserving the Western character of Albany County

Jennifer Kirchhoefer, Guest columnist | Laramie Boomerang | May 3, 2020 |

When people hear we live in Wyoming, some of the first comments they make are about Yellowstone or Jackson Hole. Understandable, considering the national reputation these particular locations have for the sheer beauty, wildlife, and the fact that they are highly desirable tourist locations. Then we proudly say we chose to live on the other side of the state, near Laramie and the University of Wyoming.

It only takes a few pictures from your phone or a couple stories and very quickly people realize Albany County is a very desirable place to live and visit as well. With close proximity to downhill skiing at the Snowy Range Mountains, multiple locations offering cross-country (Nordic) skiing, and Centennial which is touted as possibly being the snowmobile capitol of the world, Laramie offers the same winter amenities as Teton County. Once spring arrives recreation opportunities expand, drawing tourists and visitors to areas like Medicine Bow National Forest as well. Enough camping and fishing areas surround this college town to fulfill the desires of any outdoor enthusiast. Considered one of the best places to rock climb in Wyoming, people come from all over the US to experience the awe-inspiring uniqueness of Vedauwoo. These ancient Sherman granite rock formations soar up to 500 feet in the air starting at an altitude of 8,200’. Whether mountain biking, hiking, or climbing to the top, the scenery from the this summit is truly epic with views across the plains spanning up to 75 miles South and West under the expansive Wyoming Sky.

Sometimes it is difficult to get friends and family out to visit Laramie, but it is always harder to get them to leave.

Teton County has not always been an area associated with the rich and famous – they intentionally created that reputation. Teton County officials recognized they had valuable natural resources and amenities they could promote, and it was easy to recognize they had something special worth protecting. Now, Jackson Hole is one of the most well known resort destinations in the West. Wealthy people are drawn to the county by its beauty and recreation opportunities, but also by the fact that Wyoming has no state income tax, and property tax rates are quite low compared to other upscale parts of the U.S. It is easy to look back and congratulate the efforts of the Teton County Officials. Preserving their Western Character has proven highly beneficial to their economic future.

With many of these same opportunities at hand, Albany County is at a critical turning point.

Albany County has the opportunity to mirror the forward thinking of Teton County and protect our natural resources, promote tourism, and attract the type of residents with the disposable income necessary to invigorate our local businesses, restaurants, and recreation destinations.

This viable opportunity is being threatened. Albany County regulations currently allow for the ability to sell all these opportunities and decimate the attractive landscape surrounding Laramie, Vedauwoo, and our national forests and monuments (in reality most of Albany county), with massive wind turbines, interconnection switchyards, substations, maintenance buildings, and miles of access roads and transmission lines for a monetary reward. Short sighted thinking is not the avenue we as a community should accept when our future is at stake.

We cannot sacrifice our unique western character and long term economic future for promises of short term gain with 30 years of negative consequences. Every single resident should stand up for all that makes Albany County a truly unique place before it is too late. By choosing not to act, you will allow the transition of Albany County into an unattractive industrial environment void of scenic views, where our wildlife is in danger, and our vast Wyoming night sky is filled with blinking red lights. Which Albany County do you want your children to grow up in?

Email your Albany County Planners and Commissioners today and demand regulation changes which will protect our county and strategically place industrial wind projects only in suitable locations.

Hold true to your Cowboy ethics… Remember, some things aren’t for sale. Where will you draw the line?

Jennifer Kirchhoefer is a freelance Graphic Designer living in the Vedauwoo area with her husband and two children. Their daughter graduated from UW in 2019 and their son is currently a sophomore at the university.

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