Dear Editor:

ENDOW, Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, is a committee that is making an effort to improve the state’s future. Two major weaknesses of ENDOW, however, are it does not address ways to encourage people to want to stay in this state and it does not suggest ways to make people from other places want to move here. Given that we have had three years in a row of population loss, this omission by ENDOW is in need of correction.

Choosing a place to live can be like buying a car. The selection is wide, but the suitability of the different makes and models creates a complicated process. This is unique to each shopper. The following suggestions, and more could be added, are meant to widen ENDOW’s efforts to include the most important consideration of all, people.

1) Supposing you were offered a job in any of three different states, would medical insurance be a consideration? Let’s see, which states have expanded Medicaid? Not Wyoming.

2) If you wanted to ensure that you would be respected as a worker, and have some control over arbitrary firing, wouldn’t you consider a state that has protections for workers, and is not a state with misnamed “right-to-work” laws? Just how “great” is at-will employment? Wyoming has too many of these. Does the working situation highly recommend Wyoming? Maybe not.

3) The stunning scenery of the West, with wilderness areas for freedom and adventure, in places unmarred by vehicles and with lots of wildlife, might very likely be considerations. In Wyoming, however, the likely loss of many Wilderness Study Areas, and an anti-wilderness attitude, would be disincentives to staying or moving here. Idaho and Colorado promote wilderness, and people are responding positively.

4) Do conservation districts promote clean water, for example by lessening the likelihood of having E. coli in our waterways, by regulating livestock, and promote large and healthy herds of wildlife? Does the state vigorously fight to control where oil and gas developers can and cannot drill? Are the effects of fracking being studied? Not in Wyoming.

5) Is marijuana medically and recreationally legal? In Wyoming, certainly not! Drive by a marijuana dispensary in Colorado, and note all the Wyoming license plates. Wyomingites go into those places and come out $40 to $1,000 lighter. Ask yourself, is there any way we could keep that money in Wyoming?

6) Related to marijuana, generally, is the “War on Drugs.” Actually, we lost the war decades ago. According to many studies, busting and imprisoning people always cost lots more than treating people with problems. If you were to take seriously the parts of the Constitution about Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, would Wyoming, therefore, be on your list of places to move to?

7) In 2005, Wyoming was honored to be the site of a Rainbow Gathering. It was held at the southern end of the Big Sandy Opening, in the Wind River Range. Some of the smartest, the most talented and creative, and ingenious and entrepreneurial people who I have ever met were there.

In the parking area there was a big-old school bus, and it was painted like a tie-die T-shirt. It’s owner, who wore a matching t-shirt, stood in front of it. I couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. The plates were from California. I asked, “How much did it cost to get this bus from L.A. to this forest?” He said, “Two gallons of water.” I said, “What?” “Follow me and I’ll left up the hood.” He did and there were all these plastic bottles and tubing, and duct tape and bailing wire. This guy had driven there on hydrogen! This is exactly the kind of person that we need to DIVERSIFY our economy, yet law enforcement, and some Wyomingites, did all they could to make these people feel unwelcome.

Instead of a bunch of cops looking mean and angry, and marching around like Nazis, wouldn’t it have been more welcoming for them to smile, and to make sure that all the participants had the camping gear they needed, like tents and sleeping bags, and non-toxic bug spray.

The people who are writing the ENDOW report need to look outside of the box. They also need to “go” outside of the box, and experience other ways of life, and different ways of perceiving things. The people on the ENDOW committee seem to want to protect the status quo, and keep fossil fuel, and the livestock people, going for as long as they can.

Tom Gagnon,

Rock Springs

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