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Penalties to be toughened for state land violations

Apr 12, 2013 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- People who damage state trust lands can be ordered to make restitution under a new law that increases the consequences for violating land-use restrictions.

The State Board of Land Commissioners voted Thursday to give the Office of State Lands and Investments authority to enforce the law on state trust land that has been closed to the public or has restricted uses.

The state generally allows recreational uses on legally accessible state lands. However, it can close areas or restrict uses, such as banning hunting or motorized vehicles in certain areas, said Ryan Lance, director of the Office of State Lands and Investments.

"We've had several instances where people have been shooting on state trust lands, bullets have been found in cars, houses and farms ... and the board has acted judiciously to close those areas," he said

When land was damaged by unauthorized uses, the board had no way to cite violators and had to pay for it through its Trust Preservation and Enhancement Account.

The new law allows misdemeanor citations to be issued with penalties ranging up to a $750 fine and six months in prison. It also authorizes a court to impose restitution in addition to the fine for any damages that are caused.

"This will allow us to clean up the mess that they cause, which can be, in some instances, quite significant," Lance said.

State Treasurer Mark Gordon said the change is needed to ensure the land will be preserved for years to come.

"I don't think people generally understand how great these state lands are, and certainly it is upsetting when that is disregarded," he said.

There are about 85 parcels of state trust lands throughout Wyoming that are closed or have restricted uses.

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