Letters From the West

Public lands hearing starts in last minutes of State Affairs Committee.

The House State Affairs had a full agenda Monday and only two people from out-of-town got to testify on the resolution that demands the federal government transfer all public land to Idaho. The hearing will continue at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik, who testified before the joint resource committees on the issue in January got a second chance at the podium.

He repeated his argument that Idaho would manage its forests better and dramatically reduce the costs of fighting fire, He said in 2012 246,000 acres burned in Idaho County alone. He said conservatively the fires burned 1.2 million board feet of timber.

“Current policies are having a devastating effect on forests,” Chemlik said.

Turning the federal and over to the state could dramatically expand the tax base for education.

“We need to stop saying what we cannot do and say what we can do,” He said.

“I believe we could do a better job of it,” he said.

Jeff Wright, of Lowman said the federal government can’t manage the parks and campgrounds it already has.

“Next we will be told we can’t use our federal land because of the federal budget,” Wright said.

Wright made the legal argument that the federal government should have transfered the land to Idaho 123 years ago when Idaho became a state. “Its a basic collection demand for a debt never paid,” Wright said.

“Why should eastern states get all the land within their borders and we don’t?” He asked.



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