Federal Land Debate Boils Over In Oregon, Could It Happen In Idaho?

Jan 5, 2016

As tensions mount over the occupation of a federal building in an Oregon wildlife refuge by an armed group, some are asking the question: Could it happen in Idaho? The Gem State has had its own arguments over the use of federal land, including the Legislature considering taking control of all the federal land within Idaho’s borders.

Terry Gestrin is a Republican state representative from Donnelly. He spent time on the legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee. His job was to listen to people and stakeholders as the committee looked at the feasibility of Idaho taking over ownership of federal land in the state.

Gestrin says he listened to some very passionate people who argued that federal lawmakers don't understand how people use public land in the West.

“Anytime you have decisions made closer to the problem, you’re better off. They’re making these policy decisions in Washington for the West and many people have never even been to the West and it’s not always the best management policy,” says Gestrin.

But he doesn’t see something like what’s happening in Oregon happening here.

“No, not without a catalyst. So at the moment I don’t see anything, I don’t see a catalyst that would start that here.”

He says he saw some people in his district and elsewhere upset at how a wildfire near Riggins and the Soda Fire on the Oregon/Idaho border were managed by the federal government this summer. It didn’t reach a crisis point but he says the debate over public land use comes up a lot in his district. But Gestrin doesn’t know of any current issues that would spark an armed response.

As for the state taking control of federal land, he says Idaho needs to come up with a good plan for taking care of the land before more can be done on the issue.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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