Current Edition

current edition

It’s Not Yes Or No

Written by Dennis Sun

Who should control or own Wyoming’s federal lands? That question has been asked more in the last few years, and now it has dropped in Wyoming as a major issue between our candidates running for the lone seat of U.S. Representative and those running for our State Legislature.

      One of the issues with the question is that it isn't a question that can be answered by a plain "yes" or "no", and those who want just a "yes" or "no" don’t understand the issue.

First, it’s easy to understand and sympathize with those who want to see the federal lands turned over to the states, as the federal government has really made it difficult to do business on these federal lands in recent years. From management of feral horses to cumbersome restrictions for public land users trying to make a living from these public lands, it’s almost unreasonable to deal with the regulations that the federal government is coming up with. It’s the frustration of trying to do business – or see a lack of business – with the agencies from Washington, D.C. that makes public land users support western states taking over management or ownership.

Then, there is the misinformation that is running amok out there why we should or shouldn’t. We’ve heard, “The state will just sell the lands to the rich,” or “We need the federal lands to stay as they are in order to have more wilderness, protected areas and national parks.”

To say what will happen if the state does or doesn’t take over the federal lands is pure speculation on anyone’s part. We really don’t even know if it is legal to do so at this point.

Our State Legislature funded a feasibility study to research whether or not it is feasible for the state to own or manage the federal lands within its boundaries. It could come back as illegal or not feasible, who knows. The report is supposed to be out next month.

You know, for western states to take over federal lands, there will have to be a lot of negotiations before anything happens, and there are tons of questions to be answered. Some of those questions include what happens to the mineral rights. Are they on the table or not? We also need to see if the state just managing these lands will be enough to stop the overreach of the federal government. I’m sure the state won’t want the responsibility of managing the feral horses under the current restrictions. The government will have to clean up that mess. Really, there are as many questions to be answered as there are no answers for at this point.

So, instead of voting for the candidate on their stance of this question, vote for the best candidate the state needs in Congress and our State Legislature. The issue of who should own or manage the federal lands is just too premature at this point. And it may not even be an issue down the road. The question shouldn’t cloud up our election in November.