Senate demands federal lands transfer

The Idaho Legislature will spend the summer studying the transfer of federal lands to the states.

But first, the Legislature went on record demanding lands from Uncle Sam — on the order of some 16 million acres — saying federal ownership has mismanaged the resource and deprived Idaho schools of much-needed endowment money.

The Senate passed House Concurrent Resolution 21, which sets up an interim study committee to examine the issue, and House Concurrent Resolution 22, demanding a transfer of federal lands to the state.

Even some Republicans said they were troubled by the wording of HCR 22, which says Idaho “has been substantially damaged in its ability to provide funding for education and the common good of the state” because the feds own two-thirds of the land within the state’s borders.

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton

But the sponsor, Terreton Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway, told senators to see the resolution for what it was — an expression that will not yield to an immediate transfer of lands, but instead an expression of frustration. “How do we kick back?”

Eventually, though, 9.5 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands and 6.9 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands could be eligible for transfer, Siddoway said. And the resolution does spell out a framework for selling off federal lands, with 5 percent of proceeds going to the public schools endowment fund and 95 percent going toward federal debt reduction.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum

There can be only one reason why the state would eventually want title to federal lands, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett said, and that is to sell off acreage, “I don’t think Idaho should be for sale.”

But Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, cited Uncle Sam’s recent demand that states refund $17.9 million in payments to timber communities — a demand that could cost Idaho schools some $400,000. “Are we really going to wait? Should we be waiting now?”

Even if HCR 22 is little more than a statement of legislative sentiment, it sparked a spirited debate, with 13 senators weighing in.

HCR 21 passed after limited debate, and on nearly a party-line vote of 26-6.

Both resolutions have passed the House, and neither requires Gov. Butch Otter’s signature, so the Senate votes mark the resolutions’ final passage.


How they voted

The Senate roll call on House Concurrent Resolution 22, which demands transfer of federal lands to the state of Idaho.

Yes (21 Republicans, 0 Democrats): Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot; Cliff Bayer, R-Boise; Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson; Dean Cameron, R-Rupert; Russell Fulcher, R-Meridian; John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene; Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon; Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian; Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls; Brent Hill, R-Rexburg; Todd Lakey, R-Nampa; Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls; Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene; Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood; Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls; Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth; Jim Rice, R-Caldwell; Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton; Steven Thayn, R-Emmett; Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens; Chuck Winder, R-Boise.

No (6 Republicans, 7 Democrats): Les Bock, D-Boise; Cherie  Buckner-Webb, D-Boise; Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls; Branden Durst, D-Boise; Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston; Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint; Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello; Fred Martin, R-Boise; Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa; Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow; Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum; Fred Tippets, R-Montpelier; Elliot Werk, D-Boise.

Absent (1 Republican): Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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