Lands transfer: Lawmakers get an earful

Monday was a full day of panel discussions — as a 10-member legislative committee continued its long study of the possible state takeover of federal lands.

And from several different points of view, lawmakers heard alternatives to the idea of state management:

  • Robert Boeh, vice president of Idaho Forest Group, said his company is focused on the feds’ management of the 23.5 percent of U.S. Forest Service land designated for timber production. “(Boeh) supports federal legislation that would clarify to the courts that timber production is the primary objective on this portion of national forests, set clear volume and acreage targets to ensure accountability and the streamline the environmental laws,” reports the Idaho Statesman’s Rocky Barker.
  • A panel of tribal officials came out in strong opposition to a state lands takeover, saying the move could compromise tribal rights to hunt, fish and gather at cultural sites. “If the federal government is going to transfer title to any lands, they should be transferred back to their rightful owner, which would be Indian tribes,” said Helo Hancock of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, according to Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
  • Environmentalists renewed their opposition. “There has been a history of these types of proposals. Ultimately, the foundation for those proposals has effectively been refuted by the courts and proven unworkable,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League. (More from Kimberlee Kruesi of The Times-News in Twin Falls.)

The legislative “interim committee” studying public lands will next meet Dec. 4, and isn’t supposed to make any recommendations before the 2015 legislative session. But the 2013 Legislature already came out in favor of a transfer — suggesting the move could boost endowment payments to public schools. A legislative resolution passed this year calls for earmarking 5 percent from the proceeds of any federal lands sales to the public school endowment.