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Eye On Boise

GOP lawmakers say they’ve learned that Idahoans treasure access to public lands

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, speaks at a press conference Friday at the Idaho Capitol (Betsy Russell)
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, speaks at a press conference Friday at the Idaho Capitol (Betsy Russell)

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, co-chair of the joint legislative interim committee that spent two years studying how the state could take over federal lands, said at a news conference today that lawmakers concluded they don’t want to do that. “We found that pursuing any type of litigation at this time would not be beneficial, and that we should wait and see what other states are doing,” Winder said. He said the panel came up with two major findings: That there’s dissatisfaction about how federal lands in Idaho are managed, and that “no one wants to lose their access to these lands.”

He joined other GOP lawmakers today at a news conference designed in part to counter fears that lawmakers want public lands sold, ending Idahoans’ access to them. “We need to continue involving the public,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke. He said he sees “three pillars” to the issue: That the public wants to keep its access; that it wants to be included in planning for public lands; and that it “does not want it to transfer to other entities.”

Winder said, “No one is satisfied with the status quo. There is a need to improve the management and the quality of management of public lands.” But he said, “It’ll be a political solution to improve management,” working with Idaho’s congressional delegation.

The two and Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, said lawmakers likely will craft another resolution this year on federal public lands, but didn’t say if they’d repudiate the one they passed two years ago demanding that the federal government turn over title to the state. “We learned some things,” Winder said. “The majority of Idaho citizens love the access to public lands.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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