National Parks Conservation Association created this poster to draw attention to the need to preserve state school trust land in Grand Teton National Park. Gov Matt Mead hopes state officials will approve an agreement with the federal government to allow it to buy 640 acres by the end of the year for $46 million. (National Parks Conservation Association)

Wyoming lawmakers are set to vote on a bill today calling for the transfer of federal lands to the state.

The federal government shall “extinguish title to all public lands and transfer title to public lands to the state of Wyoming,” not including national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, the bill says.

It’s one of many bills filed just before the deadline for introduction — Friday Feb. 12. Another measure contesting federal authority would inventory all federal roads and trails that have been shut down since 1976. A committee could use the resulting report to draft a law to address public access it sees lacking.

Lawmakers also may consider a provision setting terms for the sale of about 1,280 acres of state school trust land in Grand Teton National Park.

The land-transfer and public-access bill drew immediate attention and fire from conservation groups. Reps. Scott Clem (R-Gillette), David Miller (R-Riverton) and Cheri Steinmetz (R-Lingle) and Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) sponsored HB-142, Transfer of federal lands.

Numerous legal scholars have doubts that a state legislature could successfully order the federal government to turn over property held by all Americans. But that hasn’t stopped state and local governments across the West from spending taxpayers’ money proposing and advocating for federal divestment.

The public land access bill also drew conservationists’ ire. It would provide $100,000 to the Office of State Lands and Investments to catalog trails and roads on federal property that have been closed after 1976. The report would also list the reasons the routes were shut. The bill calls for comparing maps, among other methods. 

The state office would submit the report to the Legislature’s Federal Natural Resource Management Committee by Nov. 30, 2017. The panel could recommend legislation based on the report.

Grand Teton lands

The bill outlining terms for the sale of state land in Grand Teton National Park would allow the state to commission an appraisal and to sell only for the highest value determined by one of several methods. Without a new state appraisal, the state set a minimum acceptable price of $92 million for the two parcels.

From fragile nighthawk eggs to views of the rugged summit of the Grand Teton, this 640-acre state school trust parcel in Grand Teton National Park holds significant natural resource values. Should Wyoming sell it and a companion piece to private interests, they could be developed as residential subdivisions. A bill in front of the Wyoming Legislature would set terms for the purchase prices. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

Sharon Mader, senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association said the bill could change many times if it is introduced and considered. “There are a lot of moving pieces.”

“NPCA is pleased to see these negotiations are continuing between the governor and the Department of the Interior,” she said. President Obama included $22.5 million in conservation funds for Grand Teton National Park in his FY ’17 budget.

Earmarked for what’s known as the Antelope Flats parcel, it would go part way toward paying the state for that scenic piece. The rest of the money would come from private fundraising, Mader said. The process would replace negotiations over a land exchange.

“This is a more direct path to actually finding a real solution,” Mader said.

Park officials hope for conservation. “The area is used for bison, pronghorn, elk migration,” park spokesman Andrew White said. “It’s an area we’re interested in protecting.”

This would mark the third time the Legislature has considered a bill that seeks to enable conservation of the school trust property, Mader said. “We hope it’s successful.”

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. “Is that the real agenda?”

    I strongly suspect so. There is a nation-wide movement to “return” federally-held lands (and in at least some cases, that *does* include Park Service properties) to state control — and since the vast majority of states couldn’t possibly afford the enormous costs of administering all those lands, they would have no choice but to sell it off. The mining, grazing, and timber lands would then be under the control of private interests which could do with them as they wished — including renting out the natural resources to the appropriate users for as much money as the new owners can get. Think you’d be able to hunt or fish the national forests? Guess again. Want grazing land for your cattle and sheep? Pony up. Need mineral ores or petroleum? Okay — but it’s our land, so you’ll pay our prices; and because it’s our land, we don’t have to think about habitat destruction or environmental contamination if we don’t want to, ’cause with our vast sums of money we’ve bought off the right law-makers and eliminated those laws.

  2. Michigan passed act 240 in 2012, that forces sale of any lands aquired beyond current lands under state jurisdiction. There iare 4 National Forest in Mi. Huron, Manistee, Otawha, & Hiawatha, this additional Federial controlled lands once “transferred” under GOP controlled house & senate must be sold by act 240 Land Cap in 6 months from date a acquisition.

    There is a clear agenda to dismantle our public domain land system in our nation. This 1016 election is the zenith opertunity that will determine Our public land heritage, please spread the information related to this sad betrayal of public trust!
    @ justahallcall

  3. I can’t believe that while facing a huge budget deficit, some legislators would propose transferring many acres of federal land to the state. That land would be enormously expensive to manage. They would have to sell it. Is that the real agenda? Also, spending $100,000 on another study makes no sense when the State is facing a revenue shortfall of millions of dollars. I hope they get so many calls and emails, that they are forced into a reality check! I am getting sick and tired of legislation that disparages the federal land I love so much.

    Earl DeGroot