Green River Star -

Our View: Public lands should stay public

 


With summer fast approaching, our desire to see public lands remain under the jurisdiction of the federal government only grows.

Some would have us believe Wyoming’s legislative body would have the best interests in managing the land, saying the state should “take back” the land as the state government is the one closest to the lands in question. We disagree because doing so would take away one of the basic rights Wyomingites have.

Placing all federal lands under the state’s jurisdiction would essentially be Wyoming selling its soul. The idea of multiple use would end as the state, desperate for revenues based off mineral development, would sell off parcels of land for private interests. State lands already are extremely limited as far as public use. A person can’t camp in a state park, for example. Places where Wyoming residents have traditionally recreated and camped for generations would be at risk of losing the type of access they’ve grown accustomed to.

Another problem with this idea is the state can’t adequately manage the large swaths of federal lands found throughout the state.

The state is already dealing with a massive budgetary shortfall as a result of declines in coal and the oil and gas industry. The amount of money needed to either create a new department or expand the Office of State Lands and Investments to manage would be very difficult to meet.

There wouldn’t be a small amount of land added to the state’s portfolio either, the amount of public lands in the state make up nearly half of Wyoming. The endeavor would be a massive undertaking the state cannot hope to take on responsibly.

Many of us in Sweetwater County have grown up with a love of the outdoors, with the ability to travel half an hour outside of town and be away from civilization. We have to disagree with politicians seeking state ownership of federal lands because the only people who would lose are the residents of Wyoming and those who come to the Cowboy State seeking a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

The idea is one fueled by desperation for revenues matching the state’s booming economy a decade ago, when budget surpluses of nearly $1 billion were making headlines across Wyoming.

Yet, if this idea comes to fruition, it would be safe to say more areas will feature prominent “no trespassing” signs in the decades to come.

 

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