“Good senators, you want the deed to this land so you can sell it,” said Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum. “I don’t think Idaho should be for sale.”
Despite Stennett’s opposition, Tuesday the Senate approved two legislative resolutions that seek to enable Idaho to take control of more than 60 percent of land within the state, land that is currently under federal government control.
House Concurrent Resolution 21, which passed 26-6 with one abstention, calls for a study to be conducted on how Idaho would best approach the federal government with a demand for the land.
House Concurrent Resolution 22 was approved by a narrower margin, 21-13. It requests the state issue a “demand for title” to the federal government.
Both measures passed in the House on March 21.
“Who better to manage these lands than Idahoans?” Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, asked as he presented the resolutions to the Senate. “Because of federal control, Idahoans have been denied the opportunity to make a living with the land.”
The legislation will enable a process similar to that begun in Utah in 2012 when Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill demanding that the federal government relinquish control of public lands in that state by 2014, setting the table for a potential legal battle.
At issue in Utah is the question of who will control approximately 28 million acres of land in that state. Supporters of the effort in Utah argue that the state can manage the land better than federal agencies.
“Been there, done that,” Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, said during Senate debate on the resolutions. “Idaho tried this in 1980. We should not spend taxpayer dollars pursuing a course the outcome of which we already know.”
Stennett concurred with Werk’s analysis, noting that “not a single tree has been cut, not a single job has been created, because of legal efforts like this. Probably the only people benefitting are the lawyers.”
“We applaud the Legislature's passage of two resolutions to begin the process of putting the state in charge of Idaho public lands that are now controlled by the federal government,” commented Erik Makrush, director of operations for the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF).
In December of 2012, IFF arranged for Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory to speak before members of the Idaho Legislature, and to begin the discussion about federal lands. “This is the right course of action for our state and for our state's future citizens,” Makrush said.
Then, in a rare joint hearing of the Idaho House and the Senate Resources and Conservation Committees on Jan. 21 of this year, Ivory spoke again, noting to the committee members that “we’re not talking about blazing a new legal trail. We’re looking at what has already been done by Illinois, by Florida, by Louisiana and Missouri. Our federal government is an absentee, centralized landlord that is broke. Idaho can do better.”
In the midst of his elaborate presentation about the U.S. Constitution, court precedent and American land history, Ivory argued the case that each of the 50 states is constitutionally guaranteed the same abilities to control their own lands.
“This is about a hundred years late, but I’m glad we’re finally doing this,” Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, told IdahoReporter.com immediately following Ivory’s January presentation.
Formulation of the study group, provided for in HCR 21, is expected to occur this summer, with the committee’s findings to be reported in the first quarter of 2014.
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.