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Lawmakers: Constitutional amendment would preserve public lands

Lawmakers: Constitutional amendment would preserve public lands

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Few things in life generate enough interest to truly elicit a call to action where we feel so compelled to engage in vigorous debate and commit our time and treasure to protect and defend those fundamental issues that define both ourselves and our culture.

The issue of transferring federal lands to state ownership or state management has risen to that level in Wyoming. On one hand we all recognize the inefficiencies, the protracted delays and economic losses associated with federal lands management. Management by federal bureaucratic overreach, presidential executive order and endless litigation by radical extremist groups to impede or stop everything from motorized and non-motorized recreation, hunting and trapping, to industry sectors in Wyoming that provide the tax base to support our way of life is not working!

Conversely there is a fear among us that if the state should ever gain ownership of federal lands that the state would rapidly sell off those lands to the highest bidder, resulting in the loss of opportunity to hunt, fish, trap, camp and recreate on those lands. Not only would the recreating public be denied access to the public domain, the public domain would be lost entirely to all future generations.

The Wyoming way to address these complex issues is not to entrench ourselves in polarizing vitriol towards those we disagree with but rather craft a win-win solution to this complex problem. Collectively we have more to gain working together.

We are proposing a solution to alleviate the concerns that the state would dispose of any acquired federal lands. We have the legal means to ensure that any such transfer of lands shall be retained by the state as “state public lands” in perpetuity, not only to ensure public access but to improve public access to those federal public lands that are currently beyond the legal reach of the public today and provide for the responsible development of both our renewable and nonrenewable natural resources that support our local economies.

When we as a people feel so compelled by an issue that we want to bind the hands of our Legislature, governor and future generations of Wyoming residents, we have the legal and political framework necessary to institute this. We do this by amending our Constitution through a vote by the people of Wyoming. We have heard the concerns voiced by the sportsmen and outdoor recreationist of Wyoming, therefore we are proposing an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution saying that if Wyoming obtains federal lands through a transfer, those lands would be managed under four principles outlined in our constitution, should the amendment pass. Those principles are as follows:

Acquired lands would be managed in perpetuity as “state public lands.”

All lands would be managed under a multiple-use and sustainable yield prescription.

There would be no net loss of “state public lands.”

All trades, swaps, transfers, sales and acquisitions would be done only where public access would be maintained or improved.

All activities currently on federal public lands, would be retained for the “state public lands;” they would not be managed as “Wyoming State School Trust Lands” are managed now. Management of our public lands by Wyoming citizens in Wyoming will be a much-needed improvement over management by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. The net result will be retained or improved access to your favorite recreation site and a reasonable regulatory climate for the industries that support our tax base.

Sen. Larry Hicks, Albany, Carbon, & Sweetwater counties; Sen. Eli Bebout, Fremont County; Sen. Ogden Driskill, Crook, Campbell and Weston counties; Rep. Dave Miller, Fremont County; Rep. Jim Allen, Fremont County; Rep. Lloyd Larsen, Fremont County, Rep. Don Burkhart, Carbon County.

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