A new report on the feasibility of transferring the management of some 25 million acres of federal lands to the state of Wyoming said the process would present major financial, administrative and legislative challenges.
Cheyenne sportsman Earl DeGroot said the state's hunters and anglers depend on access to public lands, and he hopes the Legislature will seriously consider the report's findings.
"Not only sportsmen but other outdoor recreationists across the state are against federal land transfer," DeGroot said, "because they're concerned the state would manage the land for profit which would mean a lot more development than we have right now."
The 345-page study found that the state would inherit costly wildfire and litigation issues if it were to take over management. The report also noted that if ownership of public lands was transferred to states, local governments could lose significant federal funding.
In 2015, the Wyoming Legislature passed a bill mandating the study, which was completed by Y-2 Consultants.
Aaron Kindle, Western sportsmen manager with the National Wildlife Federation's Rocky Mountain office, said his biggest fear is that if states take over management of the lands and realize the costs of management are too much to bear, parcels of land currently open to everyone could be sold off to the highest bidder. He said while the study could be a speed bump in efforts to turn lands over to states, he doesn't think the issue has been put to rest.
"It's kind of a thinly veiled attempt to get access to minerals and timber and oil and gas," Kindle said. "So long as those minerals and timber and other things like that are on the landscape, I think we'll see a push to try and get easier access to them."
A rally in support of publicly owned lands, organized by hunting, fishing and outdoor organizations, is scheduled to take place in Casper on November 5.