This year, almost certainly, the Basin’s representation will be diluted, if only slightly, probably by the addition of a few voters in Fremont County. The reason is that, while Park County has grown in population over the past 10 years, growth in …
Every 10 years, the Wyoming Legislature is required to reapportion House and Senate districts to conform to population changes revealed in the national census.
This year, that effort has serious implications for the four counties here in the Big Horn Basin. Ever since the Wyoming Legislature established single member districts in 1992, the Basin has been represented by six members of the House of Representatives and three senators, and all of their districts have been enclosed in the circle of mountains that separates the Big Horn Basin from the rest of the state.
This year, almost certainly, the Basin’s representation will be diluted, if only slightly, probably by the addition of a few voters in Fremont County. The reason is that, while Park County has grown in population over the past 10 years, growth in the rest of the Basin has remained stagnant. Washakie and Big Horn counties grew only slightly and Hot Springs County’s population actually declined.
Why is what happens to Hot Springs County a problem for Park County?
Moreover, if the population trends continue, the problem will get bigger, and the southern part of the Basin may eventually be represented by representatives from outside its boundaries, costing the Big Horn Basin representation.
The current legislative delegation representing the Big Horn Basin understandably doesn’t want that to happen, and spoke to the issue before the committee charged with producing a plan for reapportionment.
Sen. Hank Coe put it best when he said the Big Horn Basin is a unique place. The four counties have a number of common interests, including agriculture, prospects for mineral development and access to federal lands. He indicated that the nine representatives from this area commonly work together on issues unique to the Big Horn Basin.
“We’re working on this for the whole Big Horn Basin, not just Park County,” Coe said in a statement that was echoed by other members of the delegation.
Beyond the issue of representation, the stagnation of the rest of the Big Horn Basin is not good for Park County. A healthy economy in the rest of the Basin would, among other benefits, mean more shoppers traveling to Cody or Powell, more students who might attend Northwest College, and more opportunities within the Basin for young people, including those in Park County, to remain in northwest Wyoming and make a living. Thinking regionally rather than focusing on our own narrow part of the Basin would be good for us as well as the other counties here in northwest Wyoming.
We commend our legislators for working for the benefit of the entire Basin as they represent us in Cheyenne, and we hope they can persuade the Legislature to, as Sen. Coe put it, “protect the integrity of the Big Horn Basin.”
We also hope that the same spirit of regional thinking can be harnessed by the people of the four counties for the benefit of the entire Basin, including Park County.