Proposed bill would expand state's eminent domain authority

Feb 13, 2012

A proposed bill by Sen. Charles Scott of Natrona County would give state agencies more power to acquire private lands in Wyoming for public use, including by eminent domain. The bill is designed to create a path connecting the corners of two public land squares that border private land to either side. The Board of Land Commissioners and the Department of Game and Fish would consider several factors when selecting to acquire land, including game herd management, public access, mineral resource value and recreational opportunities. Powder River Basin Resource Council member and landowner Eric Barlow says the bill doesn’t consider compensating for future land values, and he’s wary of any new expansion of the state’s eminent domain policy. He says there’s a better way to deal with public land access issues. “They should be looking to encourage land exchanges, trades, purchases, etc. that consolidate lands,” says Barlow, “so the public has access to even a better resource not a patchwork resource.” Bill co-sponsor Senator Kit Jennings says eminent domain isn’t the main focus of the bill. “When you’re talking about a six foot pathway from one corner to another we’re not talking about a whole bunch of land, so I don’t think that that’s really a major portion of the bill. Senator Jennings hopes the bill will lead to a dialogue that will result in a win-win solution for outdoors enthusiasts and landowners, alike.