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Lawmakers Advance Public-Lands Transfer Despite Public Opposition

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Wyoming lawmakers are advancing efforts to transfer public lands to states. (Pixabay)
Wyoming lawmakers are advancing efforts to transfer public lands to states. (Pixabay)
December 13, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A group of lawmakers meets tomorrow in Cheyenne to advance a state constitutional amendment to manage federal lands if they're transferred to states. The measure would govern lands currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, not national parks or monuments. Critics are concerned lands could be sold off to the highest bidder, limiting access to outdoor recreation.

Chamois Andersen, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, said protecting lands owned by all Americans is an issue that cuts across partisan divides.

"And it has nothing to do with whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, whether you like the federal government or not," she said. "We all recognize the risk is too great. And we all want to work toward solutions when it comes to federal-lands management."

Proponents of the amendment claim the feds are bad managers, and are slow to grant oil, gas and mining permits. In November, a Wyoming legislative committee charged with natural resources heard more than two hours of comments from hunters, anglers and conservation groups opposed to the move. Only two people spoke in favor of the proposal.

A recent study commissioned by the Wyoming Legislature found state management would be too costly, and adhering to federal multiple-use and environmental standards would present significant challenges. Anderson said lawmakers also should consider the potential loss of money from tourism and outdoor recreation, a sustainable and ongoing source of revenue.

"More than a billion dollars per year is provided by hunters and anglers and watchable wildlife enthusiasts," she added. "This is just going to continue, the use of these lands, and the important dollars that hunters and anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts bring to the counties, and thus to Wyoming state coffers."

A Western Attorney Generals' report, chaired by Wyoming AG Peter Michael, found no legal merit for a constitutional amendment to transfer public lands. Governor Matt Mead told the Casper Star-Tribune the move also would be financially impractical.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY