Idaho Committee Says Litigation Not A 'Panacea' To Obtaining Federal Lands

Jan 30, 2015

A committee of Idaho lawmakers tasked with looking at the possibility of acquiring federal lands - and putting them under state control - has issued a report to the full Legislature. 

The committee of nine  lawmakers and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney was formed as a way to explore sentiments on the issue, and to see if there’s a legitimate way for Idaho to take over control of federal land.

After meeting with different stakeholders the last two years, committee members say they heard several consistent themes. Among them - that a government closer to the land will manage it more effectively; that no matter who controls the land, public access should be protected; and, that if the state were to come to control the land in question, it should not be sold to private interests, except in rare cases.

The committee’s report also says that suing the federal government in hopes of gaining more control is not the best answer. 

Legal analysis suggests that litigation of state claims to ownership of federal lands would be a time-consuming and expensive endeavor without a great deal of certainty as to the outcome. While the State could make good faith legal arguments for the transfer of federal lands, the federal government and intervenors similarly could assert good faith legal defenses. While not eliminating litigation as a future alternative, the Committee found litigation is not the preferred path to resolve federal land management issues. The Committee determined that if litigation were a panacea, it would have succeeded decades ago. – Idaho Federal Lands Interim Committee

The report says depending on economic realities, managing the lands could result in the state losing more than $100 million a year, or making a profit of about $24 million. The committee says economic analysis shows at least 3,375 new jobs would be created is the lands were transferred. 

The committee also recommends the creation of a commission or office to continue studying the issue.

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