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Federal Property Options Unveiled Task Force Proposes Ways To Seek Possible State Management

Four options have been unveiled by the Idaho Land Board’s task force studying possible state management of federal property.

Task force member Jay O’Laughlin, director of the University of Idaho Policy Analysis Group, outlined the options Thursday in a preliminary draft of a report to the board.

“We are getting into the heavy lifting here on out,” said Joe Hinson, executive vice president of the Intermountain Forest Industry Association.

The task force has been meeting since October and O’Laughlin said it should complete its final report by next summer.

The tougher job will be persuading Congress to pass legislation to allow the state to manage federal lands.

The draft report makes it clear a transfer of ownership to the state will not be considered.

Under the proposal, the options would be:

Changing existing laws to let a local group representing diverse interests develop a management plan and a local federal official make final decisions.

Shifting the management of federal lands to a public land trust like the state endowment fund or creating a new trust with different laws.

Creating a new institution to manage federal lands by combining state and federal laws.

Doing nothing.

O’Laughlin said the task force plans to select a few areas to propose testing new management approaches.

For example, he said, it will decide whether it wants a ranger district on the Clearwater National Forest or the Salmon-Challis National Forest as a pilot project.

No matter what option the task force recommends, members said they want the federal lands to generate enough income to maintain and improve the environment.

“We have to be better managers and we have to be productive to be better managers,” said task force co-chairman Rep. Chuck Cuddy, D-Orofino.

The option of moving the management of federal lands into a new public trust with different environment rules generated the most discussion.

The trust’s mission would be to provide benefits to its beneficiaries, said Hinson.

Under the draft report, local governments and wildlife interests would be beneficiaries. The board of trustees would include three Land Board members, three federal officials and three other appointees.

Idaho Lands Director Stan Hamilton asked whether Congress, the U.S. Forest Service or the Clinton administration would appoint the board members.

He warned that sometimes a federal manager could be at odds with the board because the manager would have two bosses: the board and the federal supervisor.

Idaho Mining Association Executive Director Jack Lyman said there might be the same conflict if the manager worked for the Idaho Department of Lands.

Tags: land use