Letters From the West

Tea Party groups support transferring public lands to state

Sophie Owens, a Boise student told the Idaho Legislature's Interim Committee on Public Land she opposes transferring the public land where she finds peace in a stressful world.

Sophie Owens, a Boise student told the Idaho Legislature’s Interim Committee on Public Land she opposes transferring the public land where she finds peace in a stressful world.

The transfer of federal land to Idaho is “clearly” legal and would allow rural Idaho to prosper as urban Idaho has, said Jeff Wright a systems engineer from Lowman.

Wright was among the public who testified before the Idaho Legislature’s Interim Committee on Public Land. He was joined in support for the transfer of 63 million acres of federal land to the state as proposed in a resolution passed by both houses of the Idaho Legislature by several speakers for tea party groups in the state.

Wright said he doubted the law would drive the decision and instead it would be decided by politics. That would be a debate “between tax and subsidy users and tax producers.”

Wright said the state should sell some of the land to improve the economy of rural areas. For instance, he said two-thirds of the river benches along the South Fork of the Payette River from Garden Valley to Grandjean are in federal ownership and undeveloped and the number of homes could easily be doubled in the area if the land was allowed to be sold.

On the other side, Jack Trueblood repeated the warning against state and private takeover of federal lands his father wrote in Field and Stream in 1980. He said the state couldn’t afford to manage it.

That’s because it takes federal subsidies to cover the costs of grazing and even logging, let alone recreation and habitat management.

“Someone back east is paying their taxes so we can manage the public lands in Idaho,” Trueblood said.

Attorney Forrest Goodrum said the entire proceeding was counter productive. He said people who say there is a legal basis are mistaken and leading people on.

“I suggest to you that is a false hope,” Goodrum said. “People should not be encouraged to think there is a way to get a big bonanza for the state of Idaho.”

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