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Wyoming

State leaders propose purchasing land in southern Wyoming

Governor Mark Gordon
Governor Mark Gordon

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - State officials have discussed purchasing land to improve public land access and generate new revenue.

Republican Gov. Mark Gordon announced two pieces of legislation that would allow him to enter into negotiations to purchase more than 1,560 square miles of land, the Casper Star-Tribune reported Monday.

The bills would authorize the State Loan and Investment Board to appropriate funding from multiple state saving accounts to make the purchase in southern Wyoming along Interstate 80, officials said.

The proposal also would ease land swaps between the government and the public, giving the state more flexibility to exchange public lands for private lands.

Both bills are necessary to begin negotiations on the purchase, which the state hopes to close by the end of summer, Gordon said. No money can be appropriated from the fund without Legislature permission, meaning any money would have to be approved next winter or in a special legislative session.

"A deal like this, the opportunity is now," Joint Appropriations Committee co-chair Eli Bebout said. "You don't study this and think about it for a year or two. It'll be gone. We have to move fairly quickly - from our perspective - for the prospective purchase of this tremendous asset."

It is unclear how much the purchase would cost.

Some land contained in the deal offer potential for new oil, gas and mineral development, as well as opportunities for ranching and grazing, officials said.

"This isn't a purchase that is just going to sit idle," Gordon said. "It is essentially an investment the state is going to make."

State officials still need to determine the earning potential and value of the land, Gordon said. Most of the fact-finding is expected to take place after the legislation needed to facilitate the deal is passed, he said.

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Associated Press

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