Under the state’s land-proposal to acquire the Pilot Hill property, the Office of State Lands and Investments would dispose of 11,668 acres of public land — only 480 acres of while is publicly accessible.
The state would retain mineral rights for that land. OSLI has scheduled a public hearing for May 5 at 5:30 p.m. to solicit public comment.
The meeting will be convened via web conference and will be streamed live at lands.wyo.gov.
The State Board of Land Commissioners plan to consider voting on the exchange at their June 4 meeting.
Tony Hoch, vice chairman of the Pilot Hill Project Oversight Committee, said he was excited to see the land exchange process nearing completion after more than two years of work.
“This is the most important project for aquifer and wildlife habitat protection, as well as connection to accessible open space, that Laramie has ever seen,” Hoch said in a press release. “By utilizing this exchange with the Office of State Lands, we are preserving the land and fulfilling the wishes of the private property owner who currently owns the land.”
OSLI released a 177-page analysis of the land swap on Tuesday. The proposal would trade landlocked property in Laramie and Albany Counties to acquire the 4,239-acre Pilot Hill land.
Despite being less than half the acreage of the land slated for disposal, the Pilot Hill land is appraised at being worth $20,000 more.
And because OSLI is negotiating to get $30,000-$40,000 in annual lease payments from Albany County and the Pilot Hill Group, the state is expecting the land swap to increase its net lease payments by $9,290-$20,936.
“The Pilot Hill Parcel is expected to appreciate at a higher rate than the state trust parcels due to its increased amenities, specifically its proximity to the city of Laramie,” OSLI staff said in their analysis. “The proposed exchange is anticipated to benefit the state’s trust beneficiaries’ long-term objectives wherein the board would acquire lands that have the potential to demand several uses far into the future. Currently, there is no legal public access to the state parcels proposed in the exchange. The Pilot Hill Parcel is located in close proximity to the city of Laramie with legal public access via 45th Street and U.S. Forest Service lands. These amenities, in comparison to those found on the State Parcels create a greater possibility that the Pilot Hill Parcel could be developed in some manner in the future, or transferred to another entity, creating greater returns.”
The office also said that the land swap is also likely to decrease its administrative costs.
“OSLI has experienced a reduction in administrative costs when state trust lands have been consolidated from scattered, isolated parcels into larger, contiguous ownership blocks,” staff wrote. “The proposed exchange consolidates currently scattered and disjointed state trust lands into a large, contiguous ownership block. OSLI expects to reduce the number of leases it currently manages, thereby decreasing its administrative costs and increasing its efficiency and effectiveness in managing the State’s trust assets.”
The land swap would take almost 8,000 acres off the tax rolls that contribute to the Common School Permanent Land Fund.
According to OSLI’s analysis, the Pilot Hill Parcel “shows the potential to produce forest products in economic quantities,” with about 397 acres available for conventional logging. The state analysis estimates the land’s standing timber value at $104,212 “to be harvested with a rotation age of eighty years.”
However, Sarah Brown Mathews, who helps organize the Pilot Hill effort, said that OSLI’s main interest for managing timber on the land seems mostly to be the removal of beetle-kill to mitigate fire risk and safety concerns.
The state analysis has been in development since June of 2018. Meanwhile, citizens, businesses and other organizations have donated more than $1 million toward access and infrastructure development.