Letters From the West

O’Laughlin says national forest planning act a dismal failure

UofI Professor Jay O'Laughlin addresses Idaho Legislature Federal Lands Interim Committee.

UofI Professor Jay O’Laughlin addresses Idaho Legislature Federal Lands Interim Committee.

Idaho doesn’t expect its demand the federal government turn over all federal lands will get anywhere simply by its passage as a resolution this year.

Republican Sen. Chuck Winder, co-chairman of the Federal Lands Interim Committee, said the panel’s task is mostly educational this year and will not bring a recommendation back to the Idaho Legislature until 2015. House Resolution 22, which demands the federal government turn over its lands, modeled on similar legislation in Utah, won’t by itself change policy.

“Our expectation is we’re not going to hear anything from the federal government or get short term or long term results from that effort,” Winder said.

University of Idaho Professor Jay O’Laughlin gave a history of federal land policy in Idaho concluding that the Forest Service no longer is able to do its job efficiently. He suggested a trust management system, similar to the way the Idaho endowment lands are managed, would address the problem.

But he also said changing the rules the Forest Service must meet would help and providing the agency with the funds to harvest its sustainable harvest of 6 billion board feet

Mostly he blamed the Forest Management Planning Act passed in 1976.

“In my opinion it’s been a dismal failure,” O’Laughlin said.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West