Opinion by Ryan Lance
State Trust Land Violations
By Ryan Lance, Director, Office of State Lands and Investments
During the 2013 Legislative Session, the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee sponsored House Bill 53 (HB 53). Approved on Feb. 15, 2013, the legislation added a provision that allows the State Board of Land Commissioners (SBLC) to seek restitution for damage done to state trust lands.
It is very difficult for the SBLC to manage abuse of state trust land. The restitution to the SBLC for pecuniary damage from illegal actions will help with costs to rehabilitate these lands. It is the hope that those who use state lands understand the importance of state trust lands to our grazing and other lessees in terms of producing revenue and for the public in terms of recreation.
Rules have been in place for state trust lands since 1988, when the SBLC adopted rules extending the privilege to recreate on legally accessible state trust lands for casual, recreational day use. The SBLC can revoke this privilege and close access, upon its own motion or upon the request of a lessee, if the public damages state lands, roads or improvements. The office will begin to include the following wording on state trust land signs and labels, to ensure that the public understands the rules that apply to particular sections: “Closed by order of the Board. Violations are a crime and enforcement is authorized by W.S.36-2-107(b).”
Current access limitations or closures for state trust lands can be found on the Office of State Lands and Investments’ (OSLI) website or by contacting the OSLI.
Future recreational access to state trust lands directly dependent on the public’s responsible and legal use of these lands today. The rules for the recreational use of state trust lands are simply restated as follows:
The lands must be legally accessible via public road, right-of-way, easement, public waters or adjacent state, local or federal land.
Anyone wishing to cross private land to reach state trust lands must have the permission of the private landowner.
Off-road vehicle use, overnight camping and open fires are prohibited on state trust land.
All motor vehicles must remain on established roads.
New roads or tracks cannot be created, nor can public users extend established roads and cultivated croplands are not open to public use.
Any threat to the health and safety of the public can result in closure or a limitation of access.
Any recreational use of trust lands that adversely impacts state lands and trust assets by way of resource damage can result in closure or a limitation of access.
Using state trust lands properly will allow future generations to enjoy the same privilege to recreate on state trust lands that has been extended by the SBLC since 1988. To safeguard this privilege, the public is encouraged to notify my office of any abuse it sees to local law enforcement.
Have a safe and enjoyable summer.