Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Public lands bills come to head in Idaho Legislature

The joint meeting between the House and Senate resource committees was the beginning of a series of hearings on a host of bills and initiatives before the Legislature this session aimed at changing management on the 60 percent of Idaho managed by the federal government. Hearings on two bills are scheduled Tuesday that support the legal views of conservative lawmakers that the state would manage the federal lands better. The first bill, authored by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, would change Idaho laws that now say the state relinquished claims to federal lands and would set a management framework of “sustained yield.” HB 582 also would declare the state has no intent to sell federal land it obtains. The second, using a constitutional argument struck down repeatedly since the 1840s and promoted by those occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this winter, would withdraw past consent for all sales of land to the federal government. Supporters of land transfers have repeatedly said they don’t want to sell off the public lands once the state gets them. Lava Hot Springs Republican Rep. Ken Andrus even suggests a constitutional amendment that would prevent such sales. But Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz undercut such assurances when he told Idaho reporters that he supports selling off the public land and cited his home state of Texas, which has 2 percent of its land public, as his model. A third bill, sponsored by Cottonwood Republican Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, would allow county sheriffs and executives to declare federal lands a public nuisance if not logged to their approval. That bill is expected to get final approval by the House this week. The bill offers no new powers, but would allow counties to send a message that they are unsatisfied with federal management, Nuxoll said...more

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