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Federal Public Lands Takeover Hearing Today

PHOTO: Today, an Idaho legislative interim committee resumes its examination of the possibility that Idaho try to take ownership of federal public lands in the state. There are more than 32 million federally-owned aces within the Gem State's borders. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: Today, an Idaho legislative interim committee resumes its examination of the possibility that Idaho try to take ownership of federal public lands in the state. There are more than 32 million federally-owned aces within the Gem State's borders. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
October 28, 2013

BOISE, Idaho - Today, an Idaho legislative interim committee resumes its examination of the possibility that Idaho take ownership of federal public lands in the state. More than 32 million acres within the Gem State borders are managed by federal agencies. The committee will hear testimony from tribal, conservation, sportsmen, timber and ranching interests.

Cheryl Bransford is a long-time outfitter who operates on federal and state lands near White Bird. She sees pros and cons in having the state in charge.

"The Department of Lands would provide more logging, but would not have the budget to provide or improve existing access - and I'm afraid we would lose our public lands to the highest bidder," Bransford said.

Concerns about loss of access and selling off property were voiced in the previous committee meeting, as well as concerns about Idaho being able to afford firefighting and other management costs.

Bransford had more thoughts on both sides of the debate when it came to her experience in the forests. She said there is room for improvement on both the state and federal levels.

"I will say Department of Lands is much easier to work with, on one hand; on the other hand, I've experienced their logging practices, and it's deplorable," she said.

The Idaho Legislature voted last session to demand that the federal government cede all acreage to the state. The committee is looking at how the state might follow up on that demand.

The Federal Lands Interim Committee meets from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Capitol Building East Wing, Room EW 42, 700 W. Jefferson St., Boise.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID