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Former Senator Eli Bebout agrees that state is “too dependent” on fossil fuels

State Of Wyoming

A longtime Wyoming politician has lent his voice to the constant disagreement between the state of Wyoming and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM is mandated by Congress to manage public lands for a variety of uses in a manner that ensures natural, cultural, and historic resources are maintained for present and future use. But former Wyoming senator Eli Bebout from Riverton said the BLM has deviated from its purpose.

“I mean you have people that don't live here and don't understand the issue of federal lands”, Bebout said. “Federal lands under the BLM definition, require multiple use and sustained yield, and that doesn’t mean doing nothing. The responsible development of our resources, that’s what it means. And I don’t think that the people in Washington right now understand and agree with that.”

Bebout added that while it is an open secret that Wyoming is walking on a fiscal timebomb and needs to move from fossil fuels, it’s a big challenge to implement and the state still has a long way to go in achieving a diverse economy.

“I mean, we are too dependent on it,” Bebout said. “But it's such a huge resource for our state. So we have to continue to develop them, continue to utilize them, continue to create the jobs that they have in that area. But we need to diversify and that's a challenge. It's a tough challenge. It's been an issue forever for Wyoming. If we totally rely on minerals, we're kidding ourselves.”

Last month the BLM was forced to backtrackthe purchase of its biggest land acquisition in Wyoming, in order to provide additional opportunities for public notice and comment and conduct a more thorough environmental impact analysis as required under its NEPA provisions. This was after the state of Wyoming raised questions about the transparency of the purchase. The question of energy exploration and land use in Wyoming has often brought the state and BLM to a head.

Update: A previous version of this article said, "the BLM was forced to reverse the purchase of its biggest land acquisition." However, the purchase hasn't been reversed so we have updated the language accordingly.

Friday Otuya is a master's student in International Studies at the University of Wyoming.
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