Thursday, February 19, 2009

Grazing bill seeks to cap value of state leases

In an effort to preserve long-term grazing leases, the Wyoming ranching industry is backing a bill in the state Legislature that would set a cap on the amount that could be bid for leases on state trust lands. Supporters of House Bill 226 say putting a limit on bidding wars for state lands would benefit Wyoming ranchers and the long-term value of state trust lands. "We believe it's not in the best interest, certainly not of the ranching community, but of the state lands either, to just necessarily say the highest bidder that comes along gets these lands," said Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, "or to ignore the long-term relationships and the stewardship that a lot of ranching families have brought to these lands for, in some cases, a hundred years." Detractors say the bill would chip away at the status of land the Legislature previously designated to be held in trust for the benefit of Wyoming public schools. Marguerite Herman, legislative chairman for the Wyoming PTA, said her group has decided against opposing the bill, but wants legislators to be aware of its implications. State law already gives existing leaseholders preferential rights to renew their leases, which come up every 10 years. Those rights include the opportunity to match any competing bid for the lease. The law also requires that the leases be limited to ranching use. House Bill 226 would change state law to cap bids by a competitor at "not more than the maximum fair market value" as determined by private land lease rates...Casper Star-Tribune

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