BLM announces largest land purchase in Wyoming’s history
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently purchased the Marton Ranch, acquiring 35,670 acres of private land southwest of Casper. The Marton Ranch borders 8.8 miles of the North Platte River east of Alcova.
This is the BLM’s largest land purchase in Wyoming to date. This purchase, along with another land acquisition in Colorado, will unlock 40,000 acres of land and create a 118-square-mile block of public land.
BLM partnered with The Conservation Fund to finalize this land acquisition. The purchase supports the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful Initiative, also known as 30×30, to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land by 2030.
The newly purchased land will be available for outdoor recreational use and the BLM’s conservation of wildlife.
“Initially, the lands will be managed the same as adjoining BLM-managed lands, until the BLM can conduct a public land use planning process,” says BLM High Plains District Public Affairs Specialist Tyson Finnicum. “Many of the historical uses of the property, such as grazing, hunting, fishing and other forms of recreation, will continue.”
Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry mentions agriculturists generally view “no net gain of public land” as a good policy to follow. Hendry says his main concern with BLM purchasing the Marton Ranch is the tax money the state, county and schools will lose.
“When 35,000 acres of tax production is taken into government hands, we lose out on those taxes,” he says. “For this year, it will be an estimated $18,000 loss in tax money.”
Hendry notes the majority of tax money, about 70 percent, goes towards school funding, so he worries schools will struggle to make up for this loss.
“Hopefully we can work with BLM to figure out a way to replace the money,” he says.
Hendry says the BLM may contribute payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) money to the commission. PILT money is a federal payment to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries.
“Natrona County received about $3.8 million last year in PILT money,” he says.
Although BLM may add a good amount of PILT money, he feels this may not be enough to make up for the loss.
“While that’s great and sounds good, PILT has to be authorized by Congress every year,” Hendry says. “If one of these times it doesn’t get authorized, then not only the county, but the schools would really lose out.”
Managing the land
Aside from loss in taxes, Hendry also has concern over the management of the land.
“I hope BLM has some sort of controlled access out there,” he says. “While the public will have access to hunt, they do need to have some limits on it in order to take care of this part of the country. It’s their country now, so we don’t have much control, but I hope they do that.”
Finnicum ensures proper measures will be taken while managing the land.
“We have BLM Rangers patrolling public lands, and we get support from other law enforcement agencies, like the county, as well,” he says. “But they can’t be everywhere at once. It’s up to all of us as public land users to protect the land, leave it how it was found and report violations if witnessed.”
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.