By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The state of Wyoming is appealing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s purchase of a massive amount of land south of Casper in May, Gov. Mark Gordon announced on Friday.
The state is appealing to the U.S. Department of Interior the BLM’s purchase of more than 35,000 acres of land southwest of Casper
Gordon said the state was concerned that the BLM did not involve the public in the acquisition process and that an environmental assessment of the purchase did not adequately consider impacts on tax revenues, school funding, grazing, mineral development and other natural resources.
“This action is not about limiting access for sportspeople or challenging the rights of private property owners rights,” Gordon said. “It is about whether the federal government can increase its land holdings without public scrutiny, or should it adhere to the same transparent process that private landowners are subject to if they sought to purchase or exchange federal land.”
While Gordon said he supports the BLM’s stated goal of expanding public access of the land for hunters and anglers and the rights of private landowners to sell their property, he also has concerns about the process followed to achieve the purchase.
The BLM earlier this month announced the purchase which is intended to provide “endless” recreational opportunities for Wyoming residents and visitors alike, a bureau spokesman told Cowboy State Daily.
The nonprofit Land and Water Conservation Fund funded the purchase of the 35,670-acre Marton family ranch, which stretches through Natrona and Carbon counties, bureau spokesman Tyson Finnicum told Cowboy State Daily.
“This acquisition is part of an ongoing, strategic effort by the BLM to enhance public access to the North Platte River and surrounding areas,’ Finnicum said. “As an agency, the BLM is committed to increasing opportunities for recreation and expanding access to public lands and waters.”
The private land is located about 25 miles southwest of Casper, just east of the Alcova Reservoir and stretches from the North Platte River south into Carbon County.
With this purchase, the public will now be able to access 30,000 acres of existing BLM-managed lands and 10,000 acres of state-managed lands that were formerly inaccessible because they were intermingled with by private land, according to Finnicum.
Finnicum said the money to purchase the land came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which gave a $21 million appropriation last year to purchase the Marton ranch in its entirety.
He added that the LWCF is largely funded by offshore oil and gas revenue.
“Money from the LWCF goes to a variety of programs to support recreation and conservation, from building city parks, to protecting historic and cultural sites, to providing public access to rivers and lakes,” Finnicum said.