Report: Lands transfer carries steep cost

If Idaho succeeds in securing management of federal lands, some heavy costs could be part of the deal.

That’s the conclusion from a Congressional Research Service report — which pegged the feds’ cost of managing public lands in Idaho at $392 million for 2011-12.

With a lands transfer, the state would be expected to assume much of these costs, the Idaho Statesman reported Wednesday.

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Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale

Some $58 million goes into two federal programs that compensate schools and local governments in timber country: one program that makes up for lost tax revenues from federal lands, and another that makes up for lost timber revenues.

State Rep. Lawerence Denney told the Statesman that counties and schools can’t expect the current federal payments to continue at historic rates. Denney and other lawmakers contend that state management could boost timber receipts, and bring more money into a state lands endowment that largely benefits K-12.

Environmentalists contend that the lands transfer does not pencil out and will ultimately cost the state money.

The CRS study comes as lawmakers are studying the lands transfer question. Denney, R-Midvale, co-chairs a House-Senate committee studying the issue; the committee is not expected to make any recommendations before the 2015 legislative session.

However, the 2013 Legislature went on record in support of a lands transfer.