(Lander, WY) – Wyoming is looking for new ways to make money on state lands in the wake of recent declines in the minerals industries.
As part of the effort, the state has identified “hot” areas in Wyoming for development – including a spot in Lander.
“We do have lands that are publicly accessible that could provide new and different opportunities,” Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments director Jenifer Scoggin told the Joint Revenue Committee during a meeting this week in Lander. “When the market is ready, we will certainly pursue those.”
OSLI deputy director Jason Crowder said commercial development in the areas identified may not occur for years, but Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said the parcel in Lander – near the Wyoming Life Resource Center and a city industrial park – is already “ripe” for development.
“The city is very interested in expanding and getting an ownership to that commercial park, as well as allowing for development of residential neighborhoods,” Case said. “People would move on that now if they could. It would solve a lot of problems for this community, (and) it’s a very wonderful place for the community to grow.”
Make more money
Case agreed that the state needs to “find a way (to) make some more money off these lands,” which only earned $100.5 million last year – down from almost $215 million in 2018, according to the OSLI.
The decrease is directly attributable to recent negative impacts on the mining industries, Crowder said – especially in the coal sector.
“As the coal industry has declined, we’ve seen our revenues decline,” he said. “Historically, that was a $60 million a year revenue stream that has since dropped to $30 million, and we’re seeing continual declines.”
Oil and gas income fell during the COVID-19 pandemic too, he said, further impacting revenue totals.
The numbers should start to improve soon, though.
“We are likely at the bottom of this downturn and are looking our way up,” Crowder said.
This year, he projected that state trust lands would bring in $150 million “just off of royalties, if the prices remain steady and strong as they currently are.”
He did note, however, that a moratorium remains in place on federal oil and gas leases, and that “has an impact on our development.”
“We sit adjacent to a lot of federal minerals,” Crowder explained, “and it’s inefficient to produce a parcel of state land with a two-mile lateral well if you can’t finish that second mile of the lateral well.
“Obviously we stand ready and willing to produce that oil and gas, but if our federal neighbors aren’t, then we’re stopped right there.”