A constitutional amendment aimed at making the transfer of federal lands to the state more palatable for Wyoming residents won’t face the chance of becoming law.
Senate President Eli Bebout announced Friday that he would not send the bill, Senate Joint Resolution 3, to committee, a decision conservation and sportsmen’s groups cheered.
“The bottom line is there’s a lot of issues going on in the session, and it was going to be a tough one,” Bebout said in an interview. “Who knows how it would have turned out, but it would have been very confrontational.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said, “so I killed it.”
The bill did not propose the outright transfer of federal lands to Wyoming. Instead, it stipulated that lands conveyed from the U.S. government to the state after 2019 should be guaranteed to remain accessible to the public.
Nevertheless, public lands advocates and local governments that viewed the legislation as premature and against the wishes of the public fought it vigorously.
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance thanked Bebout for shooting down the legislation.
“We’re glad our state representatives listened to the strong voice from our community and across Wyoming: We oppose transferring public lands to state ownership and this proposed public lands constitutional amendment,” an Alliance statement said.
Jeff Muratore, a Casper resident and board member for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ Wyoming chapter, said he was “very happy” to receive news of the bill’s death.
“I think legislators knew that when this bill came before them in committee they wouldn’t have a room big enough to hold the people that would have opposed it,” Muratore said.
Bebout said the constitutional amendment generated some “great” and “constructive” discussion about public lands management. But social media, the Fremont County senator felt, also fueled misinformation, and he received some personal jabs.
“I obviously got a lot comments,” Bebout said, “as is the case with any sensitive issue.”