Governor Mark Gordon has joined Legislative Leadership in their support for two bi-partisan bills that would allow the State of Wyoming to evaluate a significant land purchase that could bring new income to the state, while benefiting public access for hunting and outdoor recreation, wildlife and other economic interests.
“Wyoming faces big challenges in the years to come — challenges that will require bold actions and ideas to bring about equally big solutions,” Governor Gordon said. “We have taken the first step in a long and thoughtful process that can put private lands into Wyoming hands. I’m committed to ensuring that our State gives this potential investment its proper due diligence to determine if this purchase would benefit Wyoming citizens and create new revenues.”
Senate File 0138 was passed unanimously out of the Senate Appropriations Committee today after receiving unanimous support from the Senate on introduction last week. HB249 received strong support from the House on introduction last week and is scheduled to be heard by the House Appropriations Committee this afternoon.
The bills allow the State of Wyoming to enter negotiations for the purchase of a “checkerboard” of 1 million surface acres of land in southern Wyoming that was part of the original land grant to Union Pacific when they built the railroad across the nation. In addition to grazing, hunting and outdoor recreation, the parcels include mineral development opportunities for coal, oil, gas, trona, and potentially some rare earth elements.
Occidental Petroleum purchased Anadarko Petroleum last year. Occidental subsequently announced its intention to divest itself of some assets it acquired from Anadarko. These assets include the parcels the State is exploring the purchase of.
“Our conversations with Occidental Petroleum have been positive, but this is only the beginning,” the Governor said. “We now need to look at the challenges and the opportunities presented to us.”
If a final bill is signed into law by the Governor, the Office of State Lands and Investments, State Loan and Investment Board, and the Attorney General will begin a thorough vetting process that will include an appraisal, examination of potential revenue streams and a determination of the investment policies of each funding source. Legislators from both the House and Senate will aid in this evaluation process. If the State Lands and Investment Board approves this proposal as a viable and profitable option for the State, the Legislature would have 60 days to review the final package.