Guest Column: Natural Asset Companies? Hard Pass From Wyoming

Rep. Cyrus Western writes, "We need to call out Natural Asset Companies for what they are - yet another mechanism for outside forces to tell Wyoming what to do and chip away at our ability to control our own future."

CS
CSD Staff

January 16, 20243 min read

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Whenever I travel overseas, I always try to strike up conversations with locals. Of the ones who know Wyoming, the response is almost always the same when I tell them where I’m from - “one of the most beautiful places in America.” 

I take pride in knowing the beauty of our Wyoming is world renowned, for it is one of our greatest gems. But when I encounter outsiders, I don’t hesitate to also tell them people live here too and we have something to contribute. Beyond that beauty, there are communities full of people who want to engage and thrive. Everyone here knows one universal truth - extractive industries and the jobs they create are an enormous blessing and we must protect them. 

It is with this in mind that I grow concerned about a trending topic.

Best I can tell, Natural Asset Companies are a publicly traded security that collateralizes landscape level ecosystems and prohibits any activity that Washington regulators deem ‘too hard on the land’. Read it for yourself, taken directly from the Security & Exchange Commission’s rules governing publicly traded companies.

A Natural Asset Company “is a corporation whose primary purpose is to actively manage, maintain, restore, and grow the value of natural assets and their production of ecosystem services, and whose value is based on those natural assets and ecosystem services.

In addition, where doing so is consistent with the NAC’s primary purpose, the NAC will seek to conduct revenue-generating sustainable operations. The NAC may also engage in other activities that support community well-being, provided such activities are sustainable.”

I’m going to take a wild guess and say the SEC wouldn’t consider our core industries in Wyoming as sustainable, despite their exceptional record of supporting the well being of our communities. 

Basically, this is Wall Street's way of trying to make money off of companies who want to brag about how sustainable they are. You could easily say they have a right to sell whatever they think people will buy, and this is true. But just as they have a right to sell these NACs, we have a right to push back, hard. 

Whether or not we should engage in good stewardship of our wildlife and landscapes is beyond debate - of course we should. And to be clear, Wyoming already has a great track record of doing so while balancing the needs of industry and the jobs they create.

Rather, the question is who should be in the drivers seat? Bankers on Wall Street and regulators in DC? Or us as Wyomingites and the agencies that are accountable to Wyoming? That’s an easy one for me. 

We need to call out NACs for what they are - yet another mechanism for outside forces to tell Wyoming what to do and chip away at our ability to control our own future.

If you don’t control your land, you don’t control your destiny. In the simplest terms, my greatest concern with NACs is they will further prohibit us from using our land as we best see fit.

If land - whether it’s private or public - is tied up in a NAC, will it prevent future resource development? You can bet your bottom dollar the answer is yes. 

Cyrus Western is the Majority Whip in the Wyoming State Legislature. He represents House District 51 in Big Horn

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