A move this year by the Wyoming Legislature to study state management of federal lands was met Tuesday with a county resolution supporting continued federal management of federal land.
Proposed by Teton County Commissioner Mark Newcomb, the resolution opposes attempts by the state of Wyoming to transfer federal public lands to state control. Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.
Federal public lands make up more than 97 percent of the area of Teton County.
The board of county commissioners “opposes any and all efforts by the state of Wyoming to obtain the wholesale transfer of federal lands in Wyoming to the state of Wyoming,” the resolution states. The board of commissioners also “strongly supports federal ownership and management of public lands in Teton County and the incredible value federal lands bring to our county’s economy, recreation, heritage and quality of life.”
The state of Wyoming is attempting to obtain ownership of federal public land in order to turn it over to private interests, groups opposed to the effort say.
“This is about resource extraction,” Luther Probst, Teton County resident and chairman of the board of the nonprofit group Outdoor Alliance, said.
Across the West, Probst said, state governments are attempting to wrest control of federal public lands away from the United States government in order to profit off resources those lands contain.
“These public lands are our birthright,” he said. “They belong to all Americans. I think it would be tragic to see these public lands, which belong to all of us, get privatized — which is what would happen with state ownership.”
The Wyoming Legislature approved a bill this year setting aside $100,000 to study costs and benefits of transferring federal public land to state control.
The bill directs the Office of State Lands and Investments to identify in the study all potential revenue that might be realized off federal public land were it to belong to the state.
The study is meant to develop a plan for administration, management and use of these lands “under the principle of multiple use and sustained yield that includes, but is not limited to, a pledge to maintain public access to the lands for hunting, fishing and recreation subject to closure for special circumstances including public safety and environmental sensitivity,” according to the bill.