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.
University of Wyoming researcher Tex Taylor found that Albany County could stand to lose millions of tourist dollars if the swap goes through.
According to the study, hunters and anglers contributed $25 million to Albany County’s economy in 2015.
Taylor used data from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to estimate how much time and money sportsmen were spending in the area. In addition to that total, 30,000 fishing licenses were sold in the county last year.
Chamois Andersen is the executive director for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, the group that commissioned the study. She said transferring these parcels to private ownership would restrict access to a large checkerboard of federal and state lands.
“A significant portion of the forest would be closed to hunting and angling, and other outdoor uses,” Andersen said.
“And what that means is, we wouldn’t be seeing those users come to Albany County and buy hotel rooms and go to restaurants and buy outdoor gear, and so the county wouldn’t be seeing those dollars.”
Andersen adds that this would ultimately affect money that goes into state coffers.
The Wyoming Wildlife Federation has sent the study to the board, which will vote on the proposed exchange in December.