Gov Candidate Says He Will Take Over Federal Lands If Elected; Former AG Says “That’s Idiotic”

Gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell promised to seize 30 million acres of federal land in Wyoming if elected to the state's highest office. Calling Rammel's claim "idiotic," former Attorney General Pat Crank said no state has the power to seize federal assets.

Leo Wolfson

May 18, 20224 min read

Rex Rammell
Rex Rammell (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

If a Rock Springs veterinarian is successful in his bid for the governor’s office, he will have federal lands within Wyoming’s border turned over to the state, he said Wednesday.

In comments prepared — but not delivered — for a news conference to announce his one of his campaign issues, Dr. Rex Rammell said he wants to see 30 million acres of federal land owned and managed by the state.

“Will [Wyoming voters] elect a governor who will make a state’s right stand that will result in 30 million acres of public lands being taken over by the state and giving the fossil fuel industry the green light to produce?” he asked.

Rammell was to have delivered the comments during a news conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday on the steps of the Capitol.

However, no one was on the Capitol steps at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Rammell said he was at the Capitol, but a reporter for Cowboy State Daily saw no sign of the candidate on the Capitol steps or inside the Capitol itself. 

Rammell said he showed up for the event early and talked to one person, but when no one else turned up, he sat on a bench for a few minutes and then left.

Rammell ran for the governor’s office in 2018 and for the state’s lone U.S. House seat in 2016.

In his prepared statements, Rammell said on day one of his administration as governor, he would order the Wyoming Highway Patrol to walk all federal land managers out of their offices.

“The BLM, The Forest Service, The Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and others… GONE!” his prepared remarks said.

However, former Attorney General Pat Crank told Cowboy State Daily that the likelihood of this happening, even if Rammell did win the election, was zero.

“That’s an idiotic claim,” Crank said. “No state, which has membership in the United States, has the power to seize federal assets, nor order federal officials to depart the state. Mr. Rammell’s claims have no basis in law or fact.” 

Rammell based his land seizure plan on the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” 

Rammell said he decided the amendment offers an avenue for the states to take their powers back and solve many of the country’s problems. He said the founding fathers never intended for one-third of the nation’s lands to be run by the federal government.

But ultimately, Crank said, “every scrap” of U.S. land belongs to the federal government. 

Crank said the 10th Amendment has been argued as a justification for many smaller land use claims in the past, with the states never winning out against the federal government. 

He said a transfer of even as little as 1,000 acres of federal land to private or state ownership usually takes about 10-12 years, so he has a hard time envisioning Rammell’s plans.

“This is comparable to creating a civil war between Wyoming and the United States,” Crank said. “Is the federal government really going to stand back, with all that tax revenue generated from fed lands, and say ‘We’re just going to let you keep all that. Yellowstone (National Park) is not a national treasurer, it’s a treasure for just Wyoming.’ It’s absurd.”

Rammell acknowledged the government probably won’t take the seizure of 30 million acres lightly and said the matter would probably end up in federal court. 

But even then, he said Wyoming would still have the upper hand by refusing to recognize the government’s jurisdiction by not showing up for court. He said inevitably, other Western states will join in on the fight.

“After all the dust settles, the Western states will have their land back,” he said.

As far as management of the new lands, Rammell said the state would simply alter all the signs on the land to reflect Wyoming ownership and use the government’s share of mineral royalties, which would be turned over to the state, to pay for management of the 30 million acres.

“We’re taking our land back, we’re taking it and there’s not a thing they could do to stop it,” he said.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter