Simpson And Labrador Split Over State Control Of Public Lands

Feb 29, 2016

Congressman Mike Simpson had some pointed things to say about public lands during a recent budget hearing on Capitol Hill with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

“Let me tell you why people live in Idaho," Simpson said. "They live in Idaho because they love their public lands. They like access to them for recreation, for hunting, for fishing, for all the activities that they do on public lands."

The Republican from Idaho countered what another Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) had asked earlier in the meeting. 

"But let me tell you what happens when you sell those public lands," Simpson said. "We just sold 30,000 acres in Idaho to a couple of Texans. It was a lot of fun. And they all of a sudden denied access. So all of a sudden people can't access their favorite fishing hole or their hunting grounds – and in Idaho, that doesn’t mean you go around the 30,000 acres, it means you get a helicopter and have to go over it or come in from the other side on Montana. And that’s a problem, and that’s why we like our public lands.”

Simpson, who led the campaign to designate Idaho's Boulder White Clouds mountains a wilderness area, used an analogy of a landlord and its tenants to describe the difficulty of transferring control of federally owned and managed lands to western states.

"And there is always this movement to turn them over to the states – let the states manage them. Well you could do some cooperative management between the feds and the states, but like any landlord relationship you’re always P.O.’ed at the landlord . . . If we turned them over the state would be P.O.'ed at the state."

Simpson went on to call the public land discussion a "legitimate debate going on in Idaho." One day later, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) presented on his bill advocating for states to be able to manage up to 200,000 acres of national forest land, showing their sharp contrast in land management philosophy.

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