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Another Public Land Transfer Bill Filed At 11th Hour

Bureau of Land Management, Wikimedia Commons

A new public land transfer bill was filed this week by House Majority Floor Leader David Miller. The bill would allow the state to take over management of federal lands, and comes hard on the heels of a recently failed constitutional amendment that would also have given the state control over federal lands, an idea that’s been opposed by many sporting and outdoor recreation groups.

House Bill 293 revises an old law that has allowed such take overs for decades. Wyoming Wildlife Federation public lands coordinator Jessi Johnson said the old law is broad, and doesn’t specify things like whether those lands could then be turned around and sold.

“You know, they know they don’t have the support behind this and it’s quite frankly surprising that it’s come up,” Johnson said, pointing out that the bill has just one sponsor. “It’s just going to be a never ending thing until we get this point across.”

The bill’s sponsor is Representative Marti Halverson, who is also a board member for the American Lands Council, a Utah organization that advocates for public land transfers in the American West.

Johnson said state legislatures aren’t the place to debate how federal lands should be managed.

“We may be talking specifically Wyoming lands right here. But what we’re opening the door to is 640 million acres in the United States. And those are 640 million acres that are everyone’s. It just feels like a very short sighted discussion to have at the Wyoming level.”

House Bill 293 would now need to get picked up by a committee in order to advance, but Johnson is confident it doesn’t have the support it needs.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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