In the U.S. Congress and in the Idaho Legislature, some bills and resolutions dealing with the public lands takeover have been moving and others have been stalling out. Here’s a recap of the good, the bad and the ugly.
One measure that received serious consideration in the Idaho Statehouse would have brought Idaho into an Interstate Public Lands Takeover Compact. It would have joined Idaho with Utah, and possibly other western states, to “develop political and legal mechanisms” to secure the state takeover of public lands throughout the West. The measure stalled out in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee over concerns surrounding the fiscal impact. In fact, the bill would have allowed an unelected representative to expose Idaho taxpayers to unlimited fees.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate voted for an amendment to the Budget Resolution on March 26. Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) offered an amendment that supported
“initiatives to sell or transfer to, or exchange with, a State or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument.“
While the measure was non-binding, it stokes the fire of proponents of the takeover effort. What’s more, it threatens to undermine many of the collaborative efforts that are supported by the same senators who supported the amendment.
In addition to the efforts listed above, there are no fewer that five other measures that have been introduced in Congress to pursue the state takeover or sale of public lands. They include a measure by Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) and Sen. Lee (R-UT) to dispose of Bureau of Land Management lands throughout the West. Another by Rep. Amodei (R-NV) attempts to transfer most public lands in Nevada into state ownership. Chairman of the House Resources Committee Rep. Bishop (R-UT) has indicated that the committee may hold hearings in the West on the issue later this year.
So Where Do We Go From Here?
With the mixed bag of resolutions, bills and hearings, it’s clear this issue isn’t going away. Even with some progress in the Idaho Legislature this session, we anticipate that public lands will continue to face new threats in the future. ICL will be on hand to track these issues and keep Idahoans abreast of this issue that affects so many of us.
We will also work with other stakeholders in collaborative settings to find local, bottom-up solutions to the issues facing public lands. Finally, we’ll work to ensure that federal funding is available to support trails, access and important restoration work across Idaho’s 32+ million acres of public lands.
Idaho’s national forests and public lands belong to all Idahoans and all Americans. Some politicians are making a grab to control and sell off these lands. The fact is, Idahoans do not want to see these spectacular lands auctioned off to the highest bidder, and we won’t sit silently while our heritage is threatened.