The Senate Resources and Environment Committee killed a bill Wednesday sponsors said would have been a first step toward Idaho managing more of the land within its borders.
The measure, killed on a 6 to 3 vote, would have allowed Idaho to enter an interstate compact, or a working group, with other states to find ways to secure greater control over lands.
Idaho was following Utah’s lead on the working group. The Beehive State authorized the compact during its session this year, but needs other states to enter before work begins.
Committee members, including Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, and Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, worried the legislation could obligate the state to huge bills lawmakers don’t want to pay -- all without direct legislative oversight.
Bill sponsor Terry Gestrin, a House Republican from Donnelly, said the bill would have prevented that by allowing the state to pull out if fiscal matters go awry. He also offered an amendment to address concerns.
Changes weren’t enough for the committee, though. Sen. Jeff Siddoway’s, R-Terreton, said while his “heart is with” those backing the plan, he had too much concern about the compact to feel any comfort.
“I hope there’s a better way,” Siddoway said. “I hope there’s a better way that gives the state more confidence.”
Siddoway suggested sponsors continue refining language to bring the bill back next year. In closing arguments, Siddoway took a shot at detractors who worried the state would bungle land management more than the federal government.
“The state already manages a lot of land,” he said. “And that land is open to access. That land can be managed by the state of Idaho every bit as well as the federal government without near the restriction.”
Cameron worried about other members in the compact holding widely different policy positions than Idaho.
“As long as we’re comfortable with who’s in the compact, everything would probably fine,” Cameron said.
The state has every opportunity to ally with others, Cameron added.
“If we want to work with Utah, we know where they are at,” Cameron said. “If we want to work with Arizona, we know where they are at.”
Sen. Sheryll Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, tried unsuccessfully to save the measure, telling colleagues the bill is a step in the right direction to secure more funding for schools which would come, she said, with competent land management.
Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, urged senators to pursue a new course and eschew the status quo on lands.
“I think we should continue to investigate,” Brackett said. “We should not be content with more of the same. if we’re not going to work together, I don’t think we have a chance.”
The Idaho Freedom Foundation and the Idaho Farm Bureau spoke in the bill’s favor, while Conservation Voters of Idaho opposed it.
Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com