public land

Wyoming State Archives

In recent years, more and more bills have been introduced in Wyoming’s legislature that would transfer the management of federal public lands into the state control. In fact, legislators will discuss a constitutional amendment to allow state management of public lands in Cheyenne on December 14.

Melodie Edwards

The idea of turning public lands over to the state has raised the hackles of a very diverse group of people. At a recent anti-land transfer rally in Casper, hundreds of hunters and outfitters crowded together with environmentalists and bird watchers. Then on Wednesday, people turned out in droves at a Federal Natural Resources Management Committee meeting in Riverton too.

“They kept bringing in chairs,” said Dan Smitherman, the Wyoming representative for the Wilderness Society. “In fact, there was still standing room only when they got down to business.”

Public Domain

A new rule from the U.S. Department of Interior is aimed to spur renewable energy development in areas that have ample wind and solar resources as well as low conflict with wildlife. With the new rule, 700,000 acres of public lands could be used for renewable energy development through a competitive leasing process. 

Alex Daue is the Assistant Director of Energy and Climate for the Wilderness Society. He said public lands should be part of the solution to climate change. 

Pixabay

A new economic study could help the State Board of Land Commissioners decide on a proposed exchange that could affect as many as 8,000 acres of public lands in Albany County.

Under the Bonander Ranches Exchange, the state would swap 1,000 acres of state trust land in the Laramie Range to a private landowner for less than 300 acres in Crook County. These areas are valued at the same amount, and the smaller parcel could bring revenue to the state in the form of leases and timber sales. 

U.S. Forest Service

A study requested by the Wyoming Legislature has found that transferring management of public lands from the federal government to the state would not be revenue positive. Those who support state management of public lands have argued it would increase revenue for the state by encouraging resource development. 

The state paid the Jackson-based Y-2 Consultants $75,000 to examine land management practices, costs and revenues. Almost half of Wyoming is federal land and resource development and recreation on that land is critical to Wyoming’s economy.

Keep It Public, Wyoming Facebook Page

The group Keep it Public, Wyoming is hosting a rally November 5 to protest public lands being transferred from the federal government to the state.

  

There's no clear legal path forward for states who want to transfer federal lands into state management, according to a new report by the Conference of Western Attorney Generals, chaired by Wyoming's attorney general Peter Michael.

The report looked at several legal strategies proposed by Wyoming, Utah and other states, like the argument that eastern and western states should have an equal percentage of public lands, or that the federal government can't hold lands indefinitely. 

National Park Service

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Rebecca Huntington / Wyoming Public Radio

During a visit Thursday to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the federal government should not surrender its role managing public lands. That's despite renewed efforts by several Western states to get federally-owned public lands transferred to state control.

"This is an extraordinary treasure, and it is indeed a national treasure. And I think it is incumbent upon the federal government to understand its partnership responsibility, not to abdicate it, not to give it up, not to surrender it."

Recently released data compiled by the federal government shows oil production on federal lands is up from last year, while natural gas production is down. Overall, the energy sector is booming, but industry analysts say companies are shifting from natural gas to wetter plays because of low natural gas prices. But even though production is up, some industry groups point out that it's increasing more quickly on private lands and blame the trend on slow permitting by the federal government.

The Bureau of Land Management says it will likely remove fewer wild horses from the range this fall than in the past.

  BLM Spokesoman Tom Gorey says that’s because they’re running out of space to put the horses.

  “We are almost maxed out in our long-term pastures in the Midwest and the short-term corrals we have in the West, where we put horses that we have removed from the range,” Gorey said. “And we try to adopt out as many as we can, but adoptions have been on the decline.”