Last week, we got word that the state legislature in Wyoming was preparing to vote on whether it would introduce two public land bills aimed at seizing and selling off public lands in Wyoming. What happened next is a powerful lesson for how the outdoor community can speak out to keep public lands in public hands.
The two bills in the Wyoming state house, HB 142 and HB 126, were among some of the worst land grab bills we’ve seen in the last year. HB 142 would require all public lands in Wyoming (except for national parks, Wilderness areas, and monuments) to be turned over to the state to sell off, with a committee prepared to figure out how to “distribute the proceeds from the sale of public lands.”
Outdoor Alliance and our partner groups acted quickly to set up calls to action for outdoor enthusiasts to learn about and respond to the bills. Within 24 hours, almost 500 Wyoming residents had written their lawmakers. Other groups, including the Wyoming Outdoor Council and sportsmen groups, also wrote to their lawmakers en masse. The legislature reported being completely swamped by constituents—they estimate having received over 1000 letters and phone calls about the bills.
The results of this outreach? Both bills got defeated handily.
HB 126 was voted down 52 – 7, receiving “no” votes even from legislators who had previously supported land takeover proposals. HB 142 didn’t even get an introduction vote. This bill was consistently moved down the list of order in which bills would be considered. That tactic is a sign that the legislature doesn’t like the bill and doesn’t want to have anything to do with it.
What happened in Wyoming proves that when you show up and tell lawmakers what you care about, your representatives listen.
It won’t always be this easy, because land takeover bills aren’t always so straightforward as HB 142. Some of them will arrive in disguise—like bills that propose spending millions to “study” land takeovers or bills that are packaged with other issues like wildfires.
If you love public lands, the most important thing you can do is sign the petition to keep public lands public, and stay informed about what’s happening in your state.