The Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners voted 4-1 on Nov. 5 to reject the surface lease of school trust land inside a proposed wind project, forgoing an estimated $21 million income over the 40 year life of the project to support our fiscally strapped public schools. Worse, that decision also apparently violates the commissioners’ duty as trustees to manage school trust lands to maximize the benefit for the beneficiaries, the school children of Wyoming.
That duty, laid out in the Wyoming Constitution, in our statehood Act of Admission and in statute, requires a trustee’s undivided loyalty to the beneficiary of the trust. When Wyoming became a state in 1890, it received about 4 million acres of surface and an equal amount of subsurface minerals specifically to support public education, and we vowed to do that. The apparent distraction from that duty on Nov. 5 was complaints by area landowners that the wind project by ConnectGen would harm their viewshed and property values. The Land Board also spent hours on ConnectGen’s industrial siting permit application and issues extraneous to the lease question and beyond anything in the purview of the board.