[Vision2020] Group pushes public lands takeover

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Sat Feb 27 04:18:20 PST 2016

Well . . . There goes the neighborhood.

Courtesy of today's (February 27, 2016) Lewiston Tribune.

Group pushes public lands takeover
Idaho House and Senate resources committees to hear presentation Monday from Utah officials
BOISE - Efforts to gain control of public lands in Idaho and other Western states will be the focus of a joint legislative meeting next week.
The leaders of Utah's Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands will give a presentation to the Idaho House and Senate resources committees at 1:30 p.m. Mountain time Monday.
The presentation is titled, "Is Permanent Federal Ownership of the Majority of the Land in Idaho Constitutional?"
The Utah officials will be joined by George Wentz, an attorney with Davillier Law Group, a New Orleans firm that was hired to prepare the legal case for seeking ownership of 31 million acres of public lands in Utah.
The commission recently recommended moving forward with the lawsuit, despite an estimated cost of $14 million. A final decision on whether to proceed will be up to the state's attorney general.
Utah lawmakers have previously encouraged Idaho and other states to join their efforts challenging federal ownership of public lands in the West. The Idaho Legislature created an interim committee to study the issue in 2014, but it concluded suing the government wasn't the right strategy.
A study from the University of Idaho's Policy Analysis Group found that net revenue from state management of federal timberlands would range from a loss of $6 million to a profit of $129 million per year, depending on harvest levels and timber prices. If highway maintenance, recreation and rangeland management costs were added in, the state would lose anywhere from $24 million to $111 million. That would be partially offset by as much as $58 million per year in income tax revenue from the thousands of jobs that would be created.
Federal land management was also the subject of a congressional hearing this week in Washington, D.C.
Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador discussed his Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act with the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. He was joined by Valley County Commissioner Gordon Cruickshank.
"When the National Forest system was created, the federal government sold the idea of public ownership by promising a steady supply of resources for economic stability," Cruickshank told the committee. "Current forest management practices are not fulfilling that promise."
Cruickshank noted that Valley County historically had about 400,000 acres of productive federal timberland. The annual harvest was around 50 million board feet, compared to a growth volume of 80 million board feet.
"Now, because of litigation, they're not even meeting the target of 20 million board feet," he said. "There used to be productive jobs with steady paychecks and sustainable communities. Today, those steady paychecks are all from the backs of taxpayers, with schools and government jobs. What little we harvest is trucked away."
Cruickshank was one of several county commissioners who worked with Labrador to craft the Community Lands Act. It would allow states collectively to select up to 4 million acres of national forest lands - about 2 percent of total U.S. Forest Service ownership - for locally managed demonstration projects.
Individual states could select a minimum of 200,000 acres; if they had at least 5 million acres of national forest land, they could select up to 900,000 acres. An advisory committee appointed by the governor would be responsible for picking the land. Wilderness areas and national monuments would be exempt from selection.
Public access to these demonstration lands would be maintained, as would any tribal rights, according to the proposal. The revenue generated by the projects would cover any operating costs; the remainder would be distributed to local counties, similar to the federal Secure Rural School payments.
"We're trying to help these rural counties survive," Labrador told the committee. "They're always coming here begging the federal government to help them. They want to stop begging."
The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., suggested Labrador's bill was "crucial to repairing the damage national environmental policies have done to the health of our forests and to the economies of rural communities."
Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., offered a different perspective.
"Generation after generation of Americans have endorsed the idea that our public lands should be managed for the benefit of all Americans," she said. "Some of the bills on our agenda this afternoon betray this generational commitment to our public lands and their multi-use mandate. They aim to abandon the federal oversight of public lands and allow private interests to determine the future of our national forests."
Although Labrador's bill describes them as "demonstration projects," it also indicates they could only be terminated by a unanimous vote of the advisory committee, together with the consent of the governor


More on this Tuesday.

Stay tuned, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"There's room at the top they are telling you still.
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,
If you want to be like the folks on the hill."

- John Lennon
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