The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 established the modern system by which oil and coal companies may lease federal land. This system has proven enormously beneficial to Wyoming’s state coffers since it was first enacted nearly 100 years ago. How this all came about is a story of early oil producers looking for a way around a presidential order and a highly contentious Supreme Court case, all with lucrative results for the state of Wyoming—and a stabilizing result for the industry.
Politics & Government
Browse Articles about Politics & Government
|Hunt, Lester, Wyoming governor and U.S. senator||Rodger McDaniel|
|Indian Reorganization Act||WyoHistory.org|
|Influenza epidemic, 1918, Wyoming||Phil Roberts|
|Interstate 90, planning for||Robin Everett|
|James, Verda||Wyoming Legislative Service Office|
|Jenkins, Theresa, Women’s Suffrage orator and activist||MaryJo Birt|
|Jurors, female, in territorial Wyoming||Kim Viner|
|K-N Energy, Casper Star-Tribune and||Kerry Drake|
|Karpan, Kathy, Wyoming secretary of state||Sarah Gorin|
|Kendrick, John B.||Cynde Georgen|
Politics & Government
From 1942 through most of 1945, about 10,000 Japanese-Americans from the West Coast of United States lived behind barbed wire in tarpaper barracks at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center between Cody and Powell, Wyo. in Park County—one of ten such camps around the nation during World War II. The center was briefly Wyoming’s third-largest town. When hundreds of young men in the camp were drafted into the U.S. military, 63 resisted, feeling they had been denied their constitutional rights. They and seven more leaders of the group were sentenced to federal prison. In the 1980s, Congress passed a law granting an apology and $20,000 to every survivor of the camps.
Anchor Dam was built in the 1950s on upper Owl Creek in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin. The bedrock under the reservoir site is porous, and the reservoir has never held much water. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation more than doubled its initial costs with subsequent mitigation efforts, which proved unsuccessful. The dam stands today high above a small pool of water.
Guernsey Dam on the North Platte River lies between historic Fort Laramie and Laramie peak and just a few miles from some deep, sandstone ruts on the historic Oregon Trail. The dam was completed in 1927, for hydropower and flood control. In 1934, crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps located camps near the reservoir. With design help from the National Park Service, they built the handsome stone-and-timber shelters and buildings at Guernsey State Park, in what became a showplace of state park design.
Before Glendo Dam could be built on the North Platte River in Platte County, Wyoming, complicated water-rights disputes had to be settled among Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado and the settlement approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. The process took more than a decade, and shows the difficulties of allocating water in the arid West. The earthfill dam, nearly 2,100 feet long and 190 feet high, was completed in the fall of 1957. It stores water for irrigation and recreation, controls floods, reduces sedimentation in the Guernsey reservoir downstream and produces hydropower.
In 1869, explorer John Wesley Powell named the red-walled canyon on the Green River in Wyoming Territory “Flaming Gorge.” The Flaming Gorge Dam, completed in 1964, helps regulate water flows and its power plant generates electricity. The dam is located in Utah, but the reservoir stretches north into Wyoming near the town of Green River. In 1968, the U.S. Congress created the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, which is located in the states of Utah and Wyoming and draws visitors from around the world.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt included Wyoming in his 25-state tour of the western United States. He spent nearly three weeks in Yellowstone National Park, gave a speech in Newcastle, and on the return leg from California, left the train long enough for a well-publicized horseback ride from Laramie to Cheyenne, and two extra days politicking and socializing in Wyoming’s capital.
Evanston lawyer Clarence Clark became Wyoming’s first congressional representative in 1890. In 1895, the legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate. Sen. F. E. Warren, Rep. Frank Mondell and Clark made an all-Republican congressional triumvirate for more than two decades until Clark lost to John B. Kendrick in 1916.
Largely forgotten today is the stiff local resistance that arose in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to the creation and later the expansion of a national park there. The story covers 31 years of controversy, and includes a Rockefeller, a movie actor and a group of armed ranchers trailing cattle illegally across a national monument, and some of the most beautiful scenery in North America.