WYOMING — Governor Mark Gordon vetoed Senate File 114, State land leases, on April 6. The bill outlined criteria for leasing state-owned land, giving preference to applicants who are occupants of adjacent lands. The revenue from state-owned lands is used to fund Wyoming schools.
Gordon sent a letter to Senate President Dan Dockstader, explaining his decision to veto the legislation.
He wrote, “as written and set before me, this legislation now requires the State Board of Land Commissioners (SBLC) to award leases based less on return to the schools and almost solely on how proximate a bidder is to the state land in question.”
Gordon went on to say, “In effect, this bill instructs the SBLC to ignore all other criteria except adjacency, which the SBLC would normally consider when determining an optimal solution that would best insure to the greatest benefit of the state’s trust beneficiaries…preemptively restricting competitive bidding from the process to lease state trust lands, thereby depressing the potential revenue derived from that activity, seems to stand in contrast with the constitutional obligation.”
The SBLC has authority over the “direction, control, leasing, and disposal of lands granted to the state” so “as to realize the largest possible proceeds” “for the support and benefit of public schools.”
“I believe the implications of eliminating the Board’s discretion within its inherent decision making authority is improper and contrary to the intent of the SBLC’s Constitutional duties. For these reasons, I have vetoed SEA No. 54. ” wrote Gordon.
Gordon asked the legislature to take up the topic in the interim. he said, “I believe there is a simpler solution that can be found that clarifies the legislature’s intent, respects the constitution, reaffirms the discretion afforded the Executive Branch in the Constitution and finds a way forward to help proximate landowners successfully compete for vacant lands.”
Teton County has 18 parcels of state trust land, ranging from 2o acres to 640 acres.
Another bill presented during the legislative session, House bill 164 failed on the house floor. The bill would have authorized the sale of a 640-acre parcel of state-owned land on Gros Ventre Road, within Grand Teton National Park.
In 2020, land developer John Resor withdrew a development plan for another 640-acre parcel, abutting his Shooting Star subdivision. The state-owned land is about two miles from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. At the time, the state was seeking development plans to drive revenue from 18 state parcels in Teton County. The state currently leases the property for agriculture, recreation, and construction operations.