Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, urged passage of both lands-transfer measures. “For the management of the resource, I think this is a discussion that we have to start,” he said. Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, moved to approve HCR 21, the study committee resolution, and his motion carried in the Senate State Affairs Committee on a voice vote.
Siddoway then moved to approve HCR 22 as well, the resolution demanding the transfer of title to the lands. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said he’s support the motion but reserve the right to not support the measure in the full Senate, after he’s had a chance to read through more material on it.
Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, offered a substitute motion to hold HCR 22 in committee, but it failed on a party-line vote. “The study committee, I can live with,” Werk said. “I’m not convinced HCR 22 is needed for us to do that study.” After that motion failed, Siddoway’s motion passed on a party-line vote, with just the panel’s two Democrats objecting; both public lands transfer resolutions now move to the full Senate. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Senate to consider Idaho's demand for federal land
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The full state Senate will consider a measure demanding that the federal government cede millions of acres of public forests, backcountry and rangeland to Idaho, on grounds the state can manage it better.
After House Republicans followed his lead, Rep. Lawerence Denney of Midvale on Thursday convinced GOP members of the Senate State Affairs Committee to pass his nonbinding resolution telling the U.S. Congress to negotiate with Idaho on returning U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other federally-managed territory to state control.
Denney says Idaho could cut down one billion board feet of timber annually, creating jobs and reducing fire danger while still preserving wildlife and recreation. Denney contends that mismanagement of federal land in Idaho has resulted in policies that hurt the state, impede economic growth and leave rural communities with too few resources to prosper.
"I'm not blaming the federal agencies, but rather a bureaucratic dysfunctional system," Denney said, adding he foresees Idaho managing land it acquires. "Certainly, it's not our intention to acquire title to it, to sell it to the highest bidder."
Despite Denney's assurances, foes countered that Idaho residents value public land too much to allow the state to take title to it, for fear that some of the territory could be sold into private ownership where it could be locked away from people who now hunt, fish and otherwise recreate there.
Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League added that Idaho already ceded any right and title to federal lands at statehood in 1890.
"The Idaho Constitution is clear: That we forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated lands" within the state, he said.
In addition to Denney's resolution demanding control of federal land, the panel Thursday also passed a separate resolution calling for the creation of a new Idaho study group to look into how Idaho could acquire title to federal land.
Before the committee approved both on Republican majority-led votes, Betty Richardson, a former U.S. attorney from Idaho, questioned the need to pass one resolution demanding control of lands at the same time as a separate resolution that called for studying the issue. That's putting the cart before the horse, she said.
"I don't believe there's a need to rush into something that could have unintended and very expensive consequences," Richardson urged.
Frustration at federal control of much of Idaho — about 64 percent of state territory is managed by the Forest Service, BLM and other agencies — has roots stretching to the 1970s "Sagebrush Rebellion," where land management practices directed from offices headquartered in Washington, D.C., enraged many Western residents whose livelihoods depended on ranching and natural resources.
The push for Idaho to explore taking control of more of it isn't new, either. The 1980 Legislature also demanded an interim committee, to study "all matters relating to the management and control of the unappropriated public lands" within Idaho's borders.
That panel met twice before deciding to take no stand regarding Idaho taking control of federal lands, according to its final report.
This latest push by Denney and others has been given wings by a similar effort in Utah, whose Legislature a year ago demanded the federal government surrender control over 20 million acres by 2014. Utah lawmakers say they'll sue, on grounds federal officials reneged on a constitutional pledge to relinquish control of federal landholdings in each state.
"It's... clear the statehood agreement has not been fulfilled," Denney told the committee Thursday.
Oppenheimer countered that Denney and other backers are misreading history by underpinning their states-rights arguments with, among other things, a resolution on federal land disposals dating to the Continental Congress of 1780. That's long been discarded, Oppenheimer contends, adding its inclusion in Denney's resolution "falls short of properly representing the past."
Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls and a lawyer, supported the measure but reserved the right to change his mind if he concludes the legal theory behind Denney's push is flawed.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.