Taylor Haynes, a Wyoming gubernatorial candidate wants to open Yellowstone National Park to drilling, grazing and mining.
A self-described conservative and Constitutional scholar running in the Republican primary later this August, Haynes holds the federal government has no right to the possession and management of federal lands, per Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution.
Haynes further holds the state of Wyoming would be a better manager of federal lands, and all the resources therein, with the intention of generating revenue for the state.
Besides Yellowstone, Haynes claims Wyoming is entitled to all federal lands within its borders, including other national parks (Grand Teton, Devils Tower) along with Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.
If elected, Haynes would write the federal government and invite unspecified representatives to sit down and hear out his reasoning, with the expectation that the federal government would agree to vacate federal lands by January 2015. After that, federal employees would be liable to arrest for impersonating Wyoming law enforcement. Haynes, however, would extend state job offers to federal employees, in lieu of incarceration or displacement.
From The Casper Star Tribune:
All the lands would be up for lease for mining, drilling and grazing, but the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality would set priorities to protect what Haynes described as the “personality of Wyoming,” such as beautiful forests.
The state would first consider permits that had been awaiting federal approval on lands with current energy development, he said.
Down the road, the state may put the national parks and monuments up for lease, Haynes said.
“It depends on the need and the national defense situation,” he said. “Those would be last on the list.”
Haynes wants to change how mineral royalties are distributed. Companies pay royalties for production on federal land.
Currently, mining companies send payments to the federal government, and the feds distribute the state portion. Haynes wants companies to send payments to Wyoming directly, and the state would not share with the federal government, he said.
“And if (companies) refuse, we will shut them down, so they won’t refuse,” he said.
This is not the first time the issue of federal vs. state management of lands has come up in Wyoming elections. The issue itself has precedent within the state.
From The Casper Star Tribune:
Phil Roberts, a history professor at the University of Wyoming and author of “Cody’s Cave: National Monuments and Public Lands in the 20th Century West,” said Haynes’ plans could be unsuccessful.
Roberts’ book describes a 210-acre national monument turned over to the state government.
“The results were disastrous,” he said in an email. “To make a long story short, who has ever heard of Shoshone Cavern National Monument? Anyone advocating that federal land be ‘returned’ to the state wants to ignore (or make us forget) the case and make believe that such a failure never happened.
“Even though the site was quietly handed back to the federal government in fairly recent times (1977), the lesson apparently hadn’t been learned that turning federal land over to states and local entities has potentially disastrous results.”
The Wyoming Constitution, in Article 21, Section 26, states that Wyomingites gave up claims to federal lands in exchange for statehood, Roberts said.
The state was established after the Civil War, lost by people who advocated states’ rights, and it wasn’t created in the states’ rights tradition, Roberts said.
“In short, such attention-seeking assertions clearly aren’t well-thought-out or grounded in any successful historical precedent,” he said. “Besides, I’m sure Mr. Haynes, like the other gubernatorial candidates, has more important real-life issues to address.”
Other figures, such as Jerimiah Rieman, incumbent Governor Matt Mead’s natural resources policy director and Democratic challenger Pete Gosar have similarly cast doubts on the legitimacy of Haynes’ platform.
The Republican primary in Wyoming is schedule for August 19. Haynes will be running against Governor Mead for the Republican ticket.