Idaho citizens won’t cast their vote on letting state land managers change their business practices and potentially sell larger tracts of land. The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) tried to get lawmakers’ approval for two amendments to the state constitution that they said would give them increased flexibility and bring in more revenue. The Idaho Senate approved the plan, but it stalled in the House as the session came to an end.
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, chairs the House State Affairs Committee that pocketed the amendments when the session closed. He said groups that use state lands for logging found potential problems with the amendments. “There were some concerns that came up from the timber people,” Loertscher said. “They requested that we take some time to go over those, and that’s ultimately what we did. We were unable to find out exactly how it would affect the timber industry. That’s the reason why we held it there.”
IDL Director George Bacon said he also heard about those issues after the Senate approved the amendments. “I understood the timber industry had concerns, but I never heard what they were specifically,” he said.
Loertscher said that the timber industry proposed changes to the amendments, but that he decided to hold off until next year. He said legislators need more time to consider changing the Idaho Constitution. “It seemed kind of strange that we were seeing those constitutional amendments so late in the session,” he said. “More appropriately, they should have been brought to us much sooner. When you act too quickly on some of this stuff, you make bad mistakes.”
The Idaho Land Board gave IDL permission to pursue the amendments at its meeting March 16. The delay until next year means that voters won’t be able to approve the amendments until at least the 2012 election. Bacon told IdahoReporter.com that waiting two years would result in more lost opportunities. Money from leasing and selling state lands goes to several beneficiaries, including public schools, state universities, and hospitals. Idaho currently has more than 2 million acres of state lands managed by IDL.
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