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Gov. Little On Public Lands: "Take The Fork In The Road Of Innovation"

Dixie National Forest, Utah, public lands
Jeff Turner
Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho Governor Brad Little testified Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Subcommittee ranking member Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) invited Little to talk about the importance of public lands in the West to ranching families like his own.

“The enormous amounts of designated wilderness in Idaho underscores the importance of keeping our remaining federal lands as working lands,” Little told the group.

At issue are directives from the Biden administration to the U.S. Department of the Interior to increase jobs in conservation and renewable energy sources, and protect 30% of federal lands by 2030.

The U.S. Geological Survey says only 12% of public lands are currently permanently protected.

Republican members of the subcommittee don’t like that idea, repeating well-established talking points that land preservation kills jobs, locks up land and removes local control from local land.

Little told the subcommittee that conservation — not preservation — is the key to effective oversight of public lands. He thinks fewer restrictions lead to more opportunities for corporate innovation of resource management.

“We’re at a fork in the road now, and we ought to take the fork in the road of innovation rather than conservation, biology, and just throw up our hands and not do anything,” Gov. Little said.

Sharon Buccino, adjunct law professor at the University of Wyoming and program director at the National Resources Defense Council, said her group is not opposed to more active management of public lands, “but they have to be informed by science,” she said.

Buccino said partnerships between federal, state and local governments are critical to the oversight of public lands, singling out sage grouse protection efforts in Wyoming and Colorado — before they were eliminated by the Trump administration — as evidence federal and local partnerships can work.

“We need to work together rather than resulting in this whiplash and this policy pendulum,” she said, a reference to the drastic changes brought by the Trump administration and now the Biden administration’s reversal of many of those same changes. “That’s not efficient or effective for anybody.”

Tuesday’s hearing was the first of many in a renewed debate over how much climate and biological science to inject into policies managing public lands. A transcript of Gov. Little’s prepared testimony and video of Tuesday’s hearing is available.

Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

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