Congresswoman holds town hall in Kemmerer

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman speaks in Kemmerer on Friday, May 5. (GAZETTE PHOTO/Rana Jones)

KEMMERER — Congresswoman Harriet Hageman spoke to citizens of Lincoln County on Friday, May 5, at the BOCES center. She began the meeting with the message that “Members of congress need to take power back, so we are the ones setting the agenda, not leadership.”

Hageman gave updates on the latest congressional session and said there were important changes being made.

“We are now amending bills from the floor,” she said. “The process has been working well. I have introduced six or seven bills and co-sponsored almost 70 bills.”

Before diving into house bills, Hageman noted the need for Congress to work together.

“I have found that most people in Congress don’t really get to know each other, and I think that has negatively impacted this body and undermines the trust people have with each other,” Hageman said.

She said working with people in Congress gives her a chance to get to know them and talk about Wyoming.

Hageman serves on the judiciary and natural resources committee.

“My issues are the constitution, limited government and administrative reform,” she said.

As a representative for Wyoming, she said being on the natural resources committee is important to the state.

“Coal is an energy of the future and will be used for decades,” Hageman said. “It is imperative we have coal. Our No. 1 priority is energy security and energy independence.” Other natural resource issues brought up were oil and gas, wildlife and ranching.

Within the natural resources committee, Hageman serves on the subcommittee for Water, Wildlife and Fisheries as well as chair on the subcommittee of Indian and Insular Affairs, where she oversees 574 tribes and five territories. She said currently there is a law on the books limiting leases on tribe lands to no more than 25 years.

“It has really limited the economic opportunity for tribes,” Hageman said.

Hageman has introduced a bill that extends tribal land leases to 99 years, allowing them to lease trust land without having to get permission from the Secretary of Interior. Hageman mentioned a tribe that testified and petitioned for an extended lease but has received no answer and instead has been involved with a pending case for more than 14 years.

“That’s how broken the system is in Washington, D.C.,” Hageman said, “but with my bill it clears all that out. One thing Native Americans want more than anything else is autonomy and to be able to chart their own destiny.”

That bill has bipartisan support, Hageman said, adding that she’s certain it will pass in the House. She said tribes should be able to sell their own land without having to go to the department of interior. “If it is their own fee land, they should be able to do what they want with it.” She also addressed poor access to adequate health care for Native Americans.       

Regarding border security and immigration, Hageman said they are separate issues.

“We need to secure the border and build a wall,” she said. “We need to make sure that we are controlling who is coming in this country.”

She addressed a bill regarding the national debt limit.

“We are in a position where we must do something. We must address it,” Hageman said. “There is a spending problem in D.C.” She said the bill was sent to the senate which, if passed, would take back unused COVID funds as well as stop student loan forgiveness.

“It tries to get us on a good trajectory in terms of spending,” she said. “It is a good bill.”

Another bill Hageman said she is proud of introduces the idea to delist the grizzly bear from the endangered list. She said the grizzly bear was first listed as endangered in 1975 when there were 137 bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and the recovery goals were 500 bears.

“As of 2003 we met our recovery goals and, as of 2006, Yellowstone National Park is completely saturated and at capacity for grizzly bears. We have over 1,100 bears in the greater Yellowstone area.” She said Fish and Wildlife has spent $100,000 on grizzly recovery and the state of Wyoming has spent $59 million on grizzly recovery.

“Fish and Wildlife has tried twice to delist grizzly bears, but environmental groups go to a radical judge to block that, and they have been successful so far,” Hageman said.

After speaking about house bills, Hageman opened the floor for questions. There was no mention of the proposed TerraPower nuclear plant scheduled to break ground in Kemmerer.

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