Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Utah offers Idaho lawmakers ways to control federal land

Utah lawmakers met with Idaho legislators Monday, offering Idaho legal arguments they say could be used to gain control of about 30 million acres of federal land within the state that is mostly administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. "The current structure is failing," Republican Rep. Keven Stratton or Orem, Utah, chair of a commission for the stewardship of public lands, told Idaho lawmakers. "We have to ask ourselves: Are we going to be ruled by fear or are we going to trust ourselves?" The Utah contingent, which included an attorney, made its presentation before the House Resources and Conservation Committee and the Senate Resources and Environment Committee. George Wentz, an attorney with the New Orleans-based Davillier Law Group, gave a legal argument that states are supposed to be equal. But he said states with large federal holdings are at a disadvantage to states in the East and as a result aren't being treated equally. He said that offers a legal lever for states such as Idaho and Utah to get control of federal land. However, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has said the state's constitution gave up claims to the land when Idaho joined the union. Other states entered the union in similar fashion. Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, said he sensed that most of his fellow lawmakers favored state control of federal public land, but he sensed the opposite among Idaho residents. He said more information was needed to inform Idaho residents about how state control would work. Much of that fear, he said, centered on a potential loss of access to public land that is used by hunters, anglers and a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts in Idaho...more

A Republican opposes private property: 

Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said that if Idaho did move forward with trying to get control of federal public land, he'd want to make sure it stayed public. "If we were to take control of the federal land within our borders, it would be my idea to amend the Constitution that it could never be sold off," he said.

Never fear, Rep. Andrus (wonder if he's related to former Interior Secretary Andrus), any potential legislative grant of federal lands to the state will contain a reverter clause, meaning if the land is not used for a public purpose, it will revert to the feds.

The state could do the same with it's lands, granting them to the private sector subject to an easement for public access.

In fact, there are many models out there and many chances for innovation, if the R's could just overcome their "fear" of non-government ownership and management.


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