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January 5, 20175:00 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition
Wyoming has become a flash point in the debate over whether hundreds of millions of acres of federal public lands should be turned over to state hands.
From Buzz Hettick's place on the edge of the windswept college town of Laramie, it's a short drive into the heart of these remote lands, vast tracts run by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
On a recent, blustery morning, Hettick was scouting out an elk hunt in the Laramie range, a patchwork of private and public BLM land north of his home.
"A lot of wildlife uses public lands," he says.
So do big game hunters like Hettick. Hunting is big business in the rural West and Wyoming is no exception. A recent study estimated it brings in roughly $25 million into Albany County's economy alone.
Hettick is eager to show off this land — and talk about protecting access to it — to anyone who will make the trip.
"I just don't see how people can look at this out here ... and all they see is a dollar sign attached to it; there's a lot more than that," Hettick says.
When it comes to politics, those dollar signs and federal lands are inextricably linked in the West. There's always pressure to lease more land to private producers of oil, gas, coal and, lately, wind...
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