By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The state’s top elected officials on Monday authorized the state to submit a bid for the purchase of more than 1 million acres of private land in southern Wyoming.
The officials, meeting as members of the State Loan and Investment Board, voted unanimously to authorize the state to move ahead with a bid for land currently owned by Occidental Petroleum.
The action came after a more than seven-hour meeting that included an executive session that ran for more than three and one-half hours as members of the board debated whether to proceed with the bid.
The motion approved by the board authorizes Gov. Mark Gordon, Treasurer Curt Meier and the state’s chief investment officer to submit a bid for the land — along with 4 million acres of mineral rights — that would provide the best return for the state. The measure specified the three can submit a bid for all or only part of the Occidental holdings.
In response to criticism that the state has not been transparent enough in how it has been handling the possible purchase, the motion also specifies that before any purchase is approved, four public meetings will be held during which public comments will be accepted on the deal.
“I feel particularly good about the current motion where it requires additional time for additional public comments,” said state Auditor Kristi Racines.
Racines echoed earlier statements buy Gordon and Meier that the decision to submit a bid does not make the state’s purchase of the land a foregone conclusion.
“This is far from a done deal and there are certainly a lot of prices where I would not support an end result,” she said. “This is just not final. It is just one step in a process that may or may not go forward.”