Idaho’s Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden have been in the news recently regarding our public lands.
Gov. Otter touted the "Power of Partnerships" in a recent op-ed that emphasized how diverse stakeholders, including the Idaho Conservation League, are working together to find common ground on forest management issues across the state.
Attorney General Wasden and the Council of Western Attorneys General issued a comprehensive report assessing the legal arguments that public land takeover proponents have suggested. Based on established legal precedent, the report methodically dismantles most of the theories upon which the public lands takeover idea is based.
The 66-page report applies established court precedents dating back to the early 1800’s that clearly establish the constitutional authority for retention of public lands by the United States.
The findings of the report were endorsed on an 11-1 vote with the only opposition coming from Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
In response to the report, the silence from public lands takeover proponents has been deafening. Not a single advocate for seizure has responded.
Despite support for a state takeover of public lands in state and national party platforms, both Gov. Otter and Attorney General Wasden recognize that there are better ways to achieve mutual goals than through quixotic quests and imaginary legal theories.
These are just the latest nails in the coffin for the idea of a takeover of public lands. Experts have demonstrated that states couldn’t afford the burden associated with firefighting, that state laws fail to guarantee public access for hunting, fishing, camping and other traditions, and that in the end this isn’t about management of lands, this is about an effort to control and sell off lands that belong to all Idahoans and all Americans. What’s more, this is an effort that is being driven by out-of-state moneyed interests who would profit from the privatization of these lands.
That’s why there is an increasing clamor for politicians to follow the lead of Gov. Otter and Attorney General Wasden in recognizing that there is a better path to achieve the goals that so many Americans share-to ensure that our kids and grandkids have every opportunity to enjoy their public lands and to see them retained in public hands.