Naysayers packed into a legislative meeting Wednesday to express disapproval of a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide guidance to the state in the event that federal lands are transferred to the state. The meeting was meant to clarify language in the amendment and no vote was actually cast.
Committee Chairman Tim Stubson said he's voted against such bills in the past, but this one is different.
“We all know that a transfer of lands tomorrow is unlikely,” said Stubson. “But as we've all seen on the federal stage over the last couple months, the unlikely has now become possible. What if a transfer would happen? Well, we know that today there are absolutely no protections in place.”
But Wyoming Outdoor Council Director Gary Wilmot said the language of the amendment is too vague to offer much protection and he didn’t hear a single person voice support for the bill.
“From testimony today, what I learned is, it's not solving the problem. It's probably creating more challenges than it actually solves,” Wilmot said.
Although Governor Mead last week pointed out that it would be hard to pay to manage the state's lands, Senator Larry Hicks said he thinks there's money to be made.
“Wyoming generates almost a billion dollars for the federal government through the mineral wealth. So if the state ever acquired the lands and aperture of minerals, it would be almost a 25 percent increase to our state budget.”
Much of the meeting was spent fine tuning the amendment's language which many in the audience considered unclear or misleading. Suggestions were made to put all potential land sales up to a public vote, to write a provision into the amendment that refused to transfer lands if the federal government insists, and to maintain existing designations of wilderness areas and national parks in any event.
Others, like Powder River Basin Resource Council's Casey Quinn, considered revisions a futile task.
“I'm at a loss, and I say this with the utmost respect, but I mean, we don't support any of the language because we don't support the amendment,” Quinn said to uproarious applause from the audience.
The committee will incorporate audience suggestions before offering the proposed constitutional amendment for consideration in both the Wyoming house and senate. It requires two thirds support by both bodies for it to pass.