October 19, 2016

“Wyoming sportsmen and women are not surprised by the conclusion offered up by the long-awaited Study on the Management of Public Lands,” Max Ludington, board member of the Wyoming Hunters and Anglers Alliance, stated today. “The study concludes state management of federal lands would be ‘unlikely to accomplish the goal of markedly better managed federal lands and management decisions,’” he added. “That might be news to some legislators who have supported this ill-considered idea, but sportsmen have questioned it since its inception.”

The Office of State Lands and Investments published the study on their website this week. Paid for with $75,000 of tax dollars, the consultant’s study reaches several conclusions, including that they would not anticipate “any substantial gains in revenue production or additional sources of revenue with any transfer of management—certainly not enough to offset the enormous costs such an endeavor would likely entail.”

The Alliance (WYHAA), an organization of mostly young sportsmen and women, was formed out of growing concern over the threat members felt the land seizure movement poses to hunting and fishing on public lands. “There is strong evidence this effort is funded by out-of-state private interests who know that states can ill afford to manage these lands, and will be lobbied to sell or lease lands to private interests, locking out the public,” said Ludington.

“The study also notes that, ‘there are existing mechanisms in place that are underutilized that could improve the management of public lands,’ and give local communities more input into management, something sportsmen have been saying for some time,” said Ludington. WYHAA believes that lawmakers should reconsider the effort aimed at compelling the federal government to hand public lands over to the states and that the study they commissioned says as much.

“Not only impractical, the effort to seize control of federal public lands has little legal merit,” added Ludington, pointing to a recent report by attorneys general across the West. A new analysis by the Conference of Western Attorneys General focused on a lawsuit sought by land seizure advocates in Utah. But the report’s conclusions carry implications for other Western states—including Wyoming, as the Associated Press reported.

“The top legal officials in the West, including Wyoming’s own attorney general, Peter Michael, have said that the so-called ‘land-transfer’ movement doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on,” Ludington said. “It’s time for our lawmakers to put their reckless efforts to seize our public lands to rest.”

Ludington also announced that the Wyoming Hunters and Anglers Alliance has published a list of endorsed legislative candidates based on their position and votes on the public lands seizure issue.

Both houses of the Republican-controlled legislature have passed bills in recent years in support of the state seizing public lands from the federal government. Federal lands comprise roughly 48 percent of Wyoming.

Asked about why almost all of the endorsed candidates are democrats, Ludington stated, “I am genuinely surprised that this issue has become such a partisan one,” he said. “I don’t think it should be, and I would ask voters to impress upon candidates of all parties why they don’t support this effort. However, we do want voters to be educated on candidates’ positions on this important issue and make informed choices when they go to the polls.”

“In the end, we think there are better ways we can all work together to address the complexity of land management issues that don’t risk our American birthright and the western legacy that our public lands represent,” he said.

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