Idaho is following other western states including Utah that have taken on the issue of transferring federal lands to state control. Utah’s governor last year signed off on a measure supporting this. Now Idaho lawmakers have given the green light on a resolution to do the same.
Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway Tuesday reminded his colleagues this is a resolution that doesn’t have legally binding teeth.
“We’re asking the people in this body to make a little stand here," says Siddoway. "Do you think the feds can do it better than the state can do it? I mean really. That’s what we’re asking here.”
More than half of Idaho’s public lands are managed by federal agencies. Siddoway’s resolution demands the federal government transfer the public land titles to the state. Idaho would then cede national park lands and wilderness back to the federal government for protection.
The Idaho Conservation League's Jonathan Oppenheimer called Tuesday's Senate approval of what's known as HCR 22 a "radical proposal that threatens Idaho's most treasured landscapes." In a written comment, Oppenheimer said that this resolution -- along with another to study transferring public land to the state -- "open the door to selling off millions of acres of Idaho's outdoor heritage. The shortsighted proposal contradicts the Idaho Constitution and the Idaho Admissions Act and betrays the simple fact Idahoans do not want to see our public lands auctioned off to the highest bidder."
Lawmakers have also agreed to HCR 21. That resolution would create a legislative group to study whether it makes sense for the state to manage federal lands. That committee would issue a progress report to lawmakers at next year's legislative session with findings, recommendations and potential legislation to be made the following year.
KBSX will host a community conversation about the future of Idaho’s public lands next Wednesday. You can learn more about it here.