Many Western states continue to struggle as a result of the federal government’s sequester, which has delivered devastating cuts to their budgets. Wyoming, perhaps, has fared the worst, as the federal government failed to pay the state $50 million in mineral payments that should have been paid in fiscal year (FY) 2013.
The federal government owns more than 50 percent of land west of Colorado, and as a result, states like Wyoming are subject to the federal government’s land management policies.
Wyoming relies on mineral leasing payments from the feds as a critical portion of their annual revenue each year. These are royalties collected in the state boundaries of Wyoming, yet the federal government maintains control over distributing them back to the state. The feds argued that, due to the sequester, they could not make the payments to the state.
A bipartisan group of Western legislators sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) demanding that the federal government return Wyoming’s rightful mineral payments. The lawmakers cited a provision from sequestration in the 1980’s when the payments continued, arguing that the same should hold true today.
The OMB announced this week that it would pay the state of Wyoming its proper mineral leasing royalties.
This is a victory for western lands advocates, but these problems and federal government overreach will continue to occur as long as the federal government maintains control.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) commented, “Unfortunately, until we cut the middle man out of these transactions, we will always be vulnerable to the federal sharks swimming around Wyoming’s revenue.”
The solution is simple: return the land back to the states and empower state citizens to manage the land, innovate and create opportunities. One need not look far to see what state land ownership is doing to create jobs in other states abundant with natural resources like North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. Western states should be provided that same opportunity.