Bill limits Wyoming state agency land purchases

2013-10-13T09:00:00Z Bill limits Wyoming state agency land purchasesBy JOAN BARRON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

CHEYENNE -- Gov. Matt Mead wants to get a better handle on the amount of private lands state agencies are buying by requiring them to receive approval from the state Board of Land Commissioners.

A bill to be sponsored by the Joint Interim Committee on Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources in next year's legislative session requires the state agencies to get the "advise and consent" of the state board before acquiring more land.

The bill also restricts the amount of private lands agencies can acquire to no more than 10,000 acres beyond what they controlled in 1999. If they exceed the threshold, they must sell off state land before purchasing more.

The state Board of Land Commissioners, which Mead heads, is already limited to a 10,000-acre cap by policy, but not by law.

The other members of the state board are Secretary of State Max Maxfield, Auditor Cynthia Cloud, Treasurer Mark Gordon and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.

It had been generally understood that the agencies received board permission before purchasing private land.

"There's a general perception that happens, but it doesn't," Ryan Lance, the outgoing director of the Office of State Lands and Investments, said.

Jim Magagna is the executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. He was director of the Office of State Lands and Investments in late 1990s. At that time, the agency put in its budget a footnote limiting trust land acquisitions to a net gain of no more than 10,000 acres over the total amount held in 1999.

The footnote expired with the two-year budget.

"All these years, most people, legislators and everybody, thought that was the law," Magagna said. "And the state land office, I give them a lot of credit, has lived by this."

Legislators wanted the cap because the land purchased by the state goes off the county tax rolls.

Although there was some talk in recent years that the Wyoming Military Department might acquire more private land at Camp Guernsey, no particular deal prompted the new bill, he said.

"The agencies will still determine what they need, but giving the elected officials oversight puts it in one place and also assures a little more accountability because they are elected officials," Magagna said.

A similar bill was introduced in the Legislature last winter. It passed the Senate 28-2 but died in the House without any floor debate.

At the time of statehood, Wyoming received 4.2 million acres of trust lands. The state currently owns 3.5 million acres of surface land and 3.9 million acres of mineral trust land, Lance said.

The Legislature inserted the board's 10,000-acre cap in a budget footnote in 2005 when it authorized $4 million for land purchases. The footnote expired in 2006.

The $4 million went into a separate trust fund for land purchases, along with an initial appropriation from the common school fund and another revenue source for a total of $39.2 million.

The special land trust fund was the source of the $5.9 million purchase price for the 6,439-acre Duncan Ranch in Converse County and the $11 million cost to buy the Moriah Ranch in northern Albany County, plus three other lesser payments.

Proceeds from state land sales go into the fund. The land trust fund now totals $20.9 million.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. Cody Coyote
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    Cody Coyote - October 14, 2013 12:31 pm
    I agree with you on paper, Krallsa. But on the ground the state lands funding mill is kinda corrupt all the way through. Mostly benignly, but sometimes not. State lands are almost always leased well below market value. They are almost always leased for very long terms. Competitive bids for those leases are " discouraged" . State lands in the hands of ranchers become de facto private lands.

    According to the Wyoming Constitution, those state lands are supposed to be managed for the maximum benefit of our public education trust . Unfortunately , they are often lowballed and return to the state only a token payment or too low value. There are exceptions, but by and large grazing leases on State lands are lowballed.

    I would be interested in knowing what the big Pitchfork Ranch west of Meeteetse pays the state for the contiguous 45,000 acres of state land they are joined at the hip with . That land has ALWAYS been managed as if it were quasi-private. It is fabulous land, both irrigated well developed pasture and hay meadow and excellent range with some forest. it's always been considered part and parcel of the Pitchfork since 1878.

    I would ask the same question of the big block of contiguous state land east of Buffalo then northeast for 25 miles. There's also a large block northwest of Lusk. How much " maximum benefit" is the State of Wyoming realizing on those tracts ?
  2. krallsa
    Report Abuse
    krallsa - October 13, 2013 8:08 pm
    Here is a good link for understanding our state land trust and who the beneficiaries of it are:

    87.9% of it goes to educate our children. All Wyoming children. I am so glad we have socialized education. It didn't turn us into Socialists. It gave us a brighter future.
  3. Completely Fed Up
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    Completely Fed Up - October 13, 2013 12:08 pm
    As usual, our elected "representatives" continue to serve wealth: welfare ranchers and the Chamber. Trouble is, working stiffs buy into the propaganda, and vote for these self-entitled scum.
  4. Cody Coyote
    Report Abuse
    Cody Coyote - October 13, 2013 11:03 am
    What mead and Magagna are supporting here is a solution in search of a problem. There is no problem .
    Having said that , anyone who looks at a map of land use across Wyoming realizes it is a crazy quilt pattern of state , federal, and private lands with a lot of chaos. The only solution is to rework those lands; consolidate ; redraw the maps and adjudicate the boundaries. What Mead and Magagna propose would severely limit that process , and actually make it harder to do what obviously needs done.

    We do need to recall that it was Matt Mead's grandfather Cliff Hansen who back in 1949 led a posse of high minded Jackson Hole anti-federal , obstructionist ranchers against the federal government, herding cattle onto the the future Grand Teton National Park lands ( then a monument that allowed cattle grazing ) in protest. Funny thing is, grazing was allowed in GTNP for better than 50 years. Matt's brother Brad finally gave up the family's GTNP graze lease in 2001. Cliff Hansen later lamented that his protest against the creation of grand Teton and the protest he led was quite misguided. Matt might want to learn a thing or two from that...

    As for Magagna, he has never figured out that the War on the West and the Sagebrush Rebellions are over. His side lost.
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