Wyoming's western half is covered mostly by the ranges and rangelands of the Rocky Mountains, while the eastern half of the state is high-elevation prairie called the High Plains. It is drier and windier than the rest of the country, being split between semi-arid and continental climates with greater temperature extremes. Almost half of the land in Wyoming is owned by the federal government, generally protected for public uses.
Indigenous peoples inhabited the region for thousands of years. Historic and current federally recognized tribes include the Arapaho, Crow, Lakota, and Shoshone. During European exploration, the Spanish Empire was the first to "claim" Southern Wyoming. With Mexican independence, it became part of that republic. After defeat in the Mexican–American War, Mexico ceded this territory to the U.S. in 1848. Later, European Americans farmed and ranched here, with shepherds and cattle ranchers in conflict over lands.