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Wyoming Lawmaker: State Can’t Force Return Of Federal Lands

Medicine Bow National Forest

A Republican lawmaker from Cheyenne says that while there is a chance some federal lands in Wyoming will eventually be returned to state control, Wyoming can’t simply take them back.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer  (R-HD 43) says there have been eight U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the past 200 years that have all gone against efforts to return federal lands to state control.

Zwonitzer says he thinks any return of federal lands to the state would have to be approved by congress or the Supreme Court. Zwonitzer says in terms of congress passing such legislation “I just don’t think they are there yet.”

He says Wyoming “can do its part” but realistically the state isn’t going to assume control of federal lands without the agreement of the federal government.¬†Utah lawmakers in 2012 demanded that all federal lands in that state be returned to state control, but that legislation has simply been ignored by the federal government.

There have been similar proposals in past sessions of the Wyoming legislature.

Zwonitzer says he thinks it is possible over the long term that Wyoming might be allowed to either purchase some small tracts of federal land adjacent to state land or at least manage them for the federal government.

But he says he doesn’t expect the state to ever assume control of large tracts of National Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management properties in the state, let alone national parks or wilderness areas.

Supporters of the return of federal land to state control argue the federal ownership of the land is unconstitutional, and say the state could do a much better job of managing the properties. They also argue the federal management of the properties hurts Wyoming’s economy by restricting energy and mineral development.

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