An association based on the Tenth Amendment is starting a petition drive aimed at persuading Gov. Phil Batt to declare state ownership of the millions of acres of federal land in Idaho and have the state take over management.
Association officials hope to get 200,000 signatures of registered voters on petitions to send to the governor. They want Batt to seize control of 33.7 million acres of federal land in the state under the “equal footing” doctrine in the Tenth Amendment.
Marilu Miller, Boise-based representative of the group, said Tenth Amendment committees are being developed in all counties to develop multiple-land use plans.
Petitions with 2,000 signatures already have been collected in Custer County, Miller told a handful of people meeting in Lewiston Thursday night.
“Out of this county, you ought to get two or three thousand signatures,” she said, referring to Nez Perce County.
There was no immediate response on what the governor would do with the petitions once he gets them. Land policy decisions in Idaho are handled by the state Land Board.
Miller said Batt has been invited to a July 1 parade and rally on the Statehouse steps to get the petitions. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, and Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa have agreed to speak, Miller said.
Nye County Commissioner Dick Carver will talk about the county’s court battle for Nevada’s ownership of federal lands.
“If we can get our dear governor to declare public ownership of public lands, that won’t fly without going to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Miller said. “If he doesn’t, he’ll probably get a lot of pressure put on him by citizens and multiple use groups.”
Idaho was admitted to the union on an equal footing with the original 13 states nearly 105 years ago, the group’s resolution says, and therefore title to public lands in Idaho was passed to the state.
Last summer, then-Gov. Cecil Andrus said transferring federal lands to the state would be “the single most ridiculous thing for the people of Idaho to do.” He said it costs the federal government $350 million to manage its holdings in Idaho each year.
But Miller said the state gets seven times more production out of its land holdings than the federal government does.
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