CHEYENNE — Governor Mark Gordon and the members of the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) participated in the bid process to pursue a once-in- a-generation opportunity to purchase land for the public and diversify Wyoming’s investments.
The goal was to bring the lands originally given to the Union Pacific Railroad under state control and bring in additional revenue to the state. The land for sale included roughly 1 million acres of surface land and 4 million acres in mineral rights.
Today Occidental Petroleum, the owner of those lands and minerals, announced that it has signed a purchase agreement with Orion Mine Finance for those land and minerals in southern Wyoming. Although not a final sale, Governor Gordon said he has formally withdrawn Wyoming’s bid.
“I thank Occidental Petroleum for the forthright way they communicated,” Governor Gordon said.
“I am disappointed that Wyoming was not the ultimate buyer of the Union Pacific Land Grant lands and minerals. We worked hard to prepare a responsible, good faith bid, which we believe would have augmented Wyoming’s investment returns, bringing in more revenue to keep taxes in Wyoming low. Had Wyoming’s bid been accepted, the rate of return was expected to be in the range of 8% to 12%, depending on the assets and how quickly the economy recovers. This predicted rate of return is currently better than our current average rate of return.”
The purchase also would have provided many other benefits to Wyoming citizens by making it easier to manage checkerboard lands in southwestern Wyoming, furnishing more and better public access for recreation and hunting, and giving Wyoming more tools to oversee development assuring multiple use, including grazing and development of traditional and non-traditional energy resources.
“We felt the purchase would have been a good investment at the bid we submitted,” Treasurer Curt Meier said. “However, we believe our existing investment opportunities will also serve the needs of the state and its constituents. Exceeding our target bid was a risk we were not willing to take.”
The Governor and other members of SLIB planned to use Wyoming’s Permanent Funds for the purchase. The Constitution requires that those funds are only available for prudent investments, as guided by state statute, and are not available to help offset the current budget shortfalls or to directly pay for the costs of running the State Government.