(Casper Star Tribune, November 21) – A select legislative committee Wednesday voted to take the first step in an attempt to transfer federal public lands in Wyoming to state ownership.
Legislators on the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee voted for draft legislation to establish a new select committee to conduct further study of federal lands in the state.
Wilderness areas and other specially designated areas approved by Congress were excluded in the legislation.
The state of Utah is working aggressively in the same direction, as are other western states.
Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, the co-chairman of the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee, said the original intent was for the federal government to hold the public lands in trust until they were handed back to the states.
He said there is a “federal fault line” on the eastern borders of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
States on the east side of the line have few federal public lands, while states on the west side have a substantial amount.
The federal government owns nearly half of Wyoming’s 98,000 square miles of land.
The select committee action is the result of a task force study of the transfer of public landsauthorized by the Legislature last winter — a move some lawmakers described as another round of the so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion.”
Wyoming was one of seven states that either passed or explored legislation during the past year demanding that the federal government turn over millions of acres of federal public lands to the states.