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Wyoming committee passes federal lands take-back bill

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CHEYENNE – The House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee passed a bill Friday morning that would assemble another committee to study the state’s options to take back lands owned by the federal government.

House Bill 35 would require a study of the issue until 2018.

In 2013, a four-member committee met in Gillette and Casper to study the issue. Proponents of taking back federal land say Washington does a poor job of giving Wyomingites and companies working here access to land. HB35 would call up a new committee.

Rep. Dave Miller, R-Riverton, told the representatives Friday morning it may take 20 to 30 years for Wyoming to wrest control of lands from the feds. Wyoming will likely work with other western states, such as Utah, to fight the federal government over land.

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office in May sent a memo to Gov. Matt Mead’s staffers that analyzed the law and court cases in Utah and Wyoming and said success is unlikely in both states.

To save money, members of the minerals committee amended the bill to have four members, instead of six, as was in the bill. The bill provides $20,000, which will mostly be used for travel by members, said Rep. Tom Lockhart, R-Casper, the committee’s chairman.

The Senate is considering a similar bill, Senate File 41.

Reach state reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at laura.hancock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

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