Two lawmakers who have so far sought unsuccessfully to halt the Department of Lands' expansion into commercial real estate are again criticizing the agency, this time over a 2012 property swap they contend wasn't to Idaho's advantage.
Last year, the Department of Lands swapped state endowment land on Payette Lake in McCall for privately-owned Idaho Falls commercial property.
Idaho's assessor concluded each property was worth about $6.1 million.
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.
A fight between western states and the federal government over control of public lands has surfaced in the Northwest. Last year Utah and Arizona lawmakers passed bills requiring the feds to sign public land over to them. Now Idaho lawmakers are discussing whether a similar bill is right for their state.
The Forest Service has received funding to buy a few privately owned parcels of land in the northwest.
The money for the land buys comes from a federal conservation fund, that gets a tiny percent of the royalties from offshore oil drilling.
Debbie Okholm is with the Forest Service. She says more than 15 percent of the land inside national forest boundaries in the northwest is actually owned by other people. So the forest service focuses on acquiring that land.