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Natural Resources & Energy

More Wyoming Bills Push To Give State Control Over Federal Lands

U.S. Forest Service

A Wyoming conservation group has released a report describing what they call a calculated and incremental approach to transferring federal public lands into state control. The Wyoming Outdoor Council’s report says there have been an increasing number of land transfer bills in recent years, not just in Wyoming but around the West.

WOC's Steff Kessler says supporters of the legislation want local control of federal lands, but she says that’s not what would happen.

“There is no local control when our public lands are sold off and privatized,” Kessler says. “There’s no local control when, let’s say a dot-com billionaire from California is able to bid on these lands and turn our favorite hunting and fishing places into their private reserves.”

Kessler says, it’s part of a movement around the West.

“There is an organization out of Utah called the American Lands Council that has been strongly promoting this agenda in Western states for a long time,” she says. “And their representatives have come to our legislative committees and offered testimony. And legislators have also gone to conferences there as well.”

Kessler says three of the four land transfer bills introduced outlined how federal lands could be sold to private interests and how to distribute the proceeds.

The state is conducting a $75,000 study of the legal viability of land transfers. Kessler says, in 2012, the Wyoming Attorney General noted in a brief to the Governor’s office that the state constitution specifically gives up all its rights to stake claims on public lands.

She says the state has commissioned a task force to find out about the legal viability of land transfers. Lawmakers will hear the results of the study at a meeting in Riverton in November.

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