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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: federal lands

Federal lands interim committee adds seventh public hearing next month

The Federal Lands Interim Committee, a joint legislative interim committee co-chaired by Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, has scheduled a seventh public hearing, this one in Sandpoint on Sept. 12. That’s in addition to the six already scheduled over the next two months, including Sept. 11 in Kamiah and St. Maries; Oct. 9 in Idaho Falls and Soda Springs; and Oct 10 in Twin Falls and Hailey.

The move already has prompted a “jeer” from the Lewiston Tribune’s editorial page that Denney “just happens to be making a series of statewide swings at taxpayer expense, right in the middle of campaign season, including stops next month in Kamiah and St. Maries.” Denney, former speaker of the House and current House resources chairman, is running for Idaho Secretary of State; he faces Democrat Holli Woodings in the November election.

Denney said, “We thought that it was important that the people have their say in what they think about the state taking over title to the federal lands. And that was certainly always the plan – last year was to be fact-finding, this year was more public hearing.”

Winder, Denney’s co-chairman, said, “We have to report back to the 2015 session. So in trying to coordinate schedules, it was very difficult to get anybody to where we could get like two days together, actually going back to July or August.” Denney said the pre-election timing “wasn’t my choice,” saying, “I would like to have started way earlier, because it’s going to take time away from me right when I think I need it most in the campaign. … I think it was just logistics.”

Asked why the panel is heading to small towns like Soda Springs, Kamiah and St. Maries, Denney said, “A lot of the people who want to come and testify are from these more rural areas, and why make them travel? … They always have to travel.”

Winder said the Sandpoint session was added at the request of Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who said her constituents “felt like it was too far to go to St. Maries to testify.”

The panel is charged, during its two years, to “undertake and complete a study of the process for the state of Idaho to acquire title to and control of public lands controlled by the federal government.” It’s already spent more than $41,000 on legal fees to Bill Myers, a Boise attorney and former solicitor general for the Department of the Interior, whom it hired to advise it.  

Winder said, “We’re already pretty confident that from a legal perspective, we don’t stand on very firm ground if it were a matter of litigating. But we do think there are alternatives available to us in existing laws and potential for congressional changes in how the states interact with the federal agencies that manage public lands. … We think it’s worth the effort.”

Bedke joins Utah public lands summit

Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke was among 50 politicians from nine states who gathered at the Utah state Capitol on Friday to discuss ways states can take over management of federal lands, reporter Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News reports.  “It’s time the states in the West come of age,” Bedke said. “We’re every bit as capable of managing the lands in our boundaries as the states east of Colorado.”

The Idaho Legislature has an interim committee studying the issue; it also passed a resolution in 2013 demanding that federal lands in Idaho be transferred to the state. You can read Richert’s report here; the Salt Lake Tribune has a full report here.

Public lands transfer proposal draws testimony, opposition

The Idaho Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee is taking public testimony this morning on proposals to have the state take over title to federal public lands. So far, most has been solidly against the idea. Opponents expressed concerns over Idaho’s vast public land being sold off to private owners; an economist said the state of Idaho would incur billions in costs that it can’t afford; and a foresters association expressed concern over road management costs the state would take on.

An exception was Russ Smerz, an unpaid lobbyist for Tea Party Boise who said he was speaking for “23 different liberty groups around the state of Idaho,” including 14 tea party groups, the John Birch Society, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Open Carry and more.  “We do support the transfer of federal lands to the state,” he told the committee. “Basically it’s increased school funding, better managed by the state than the feds, and the historical precedent that has been set by the eastern states.” Jeff Wright of Boise County spoke in favor of transfer; he said his county is 90 percent federally owned. “We can’t develop an economy because we’re not allowed to,” he said. “I think it’s time that Idaho took control of their own destiny.”

Buster Gibson, vice chair of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, spoke against the move. “I come from a long line of leaders and we do not have a settlement or a treaty with the federal government,” he told the committee. “Land title for southwestern Idaho has never been transferred to the United States. … That is our land, my people’s land. It has not been patented and we do not want the state of Idaho to manage it for us. We want the federal government to continue the management or to give it back to us and compensate us for it. We still hold Indian title to this land and that’s where our relationship to the federal government stands; it’s not to the state of Idaho government. … You have no right to take this land or to manage it. You’ll leave us with two options: We can fight you in federal court, or we’ll fight you in the nation’s capitol.”

Jack Trueblood told the lawmakers, “I fear the ultimate result would be the sale of much of those lands, and there’s nothing that restricts access like a no-trespassing sign.” The committee has another public comment period set for 1:30 to 2:40 p.m. today, as part of its all-day meeting in the Lincoln Auditorium in the state Capitol, which also includes a series of presentations. You can listen live here.

Report: Feds spent $392M on land management in Idaho in 2012

Here's a news item from the AP and Idaho Statesman: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three federal agencies spent $392 million in 2012 to manage 32 million acres of Idaho public land, according to a report illustrating costs Idaho would face by assuming oversight of a substantial swath of the territory. The Idaho Statesman ( ) reports the report was requested by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. State lawmakers are discussing a proposal to take over 16.4 million acres of federal land. Among them, Rep. Lawerence Denney says Idaho can manage it better than the federal government. After seeing Simpson's report, Denney concedes such a move could initially be difficult, but contends Idaho would eventually profit from increased logging and grazing. Environmental groups say Denney's revenue-boosting expectations are wildly exaggerated.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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