BOISE -- A legislative committee is looking at more ideas about whether Idaho should demand the federal government give control of public lands over to the state. It would impact anyone who uses federal land, from rafters to mountain bikers, loggers to fishermen.
Idaho's federal lands make up 32 million acres, which is more than 60 percent of the state. Now the consideration before the Federal Lands Interim Committee is whether or not Idaho should try to gain control of that land.
On Monday, interest groups including tribal leaders, sportsmen, environmentalists, and loggers made presentations to the committee.
"We have long advocated that the state of Idaho as demonstrated by our professionals at the department of lands are better land managers for our forest lands," said Jerry Deckard, with Associated Logging Contractors.
"The proposal for the state to take over all public lands is really a radical, out-of-state proposal that would undermine a lot of the reasons why Idahoans love Idaho," said Jonathan Oppenheimer, with the Idaho Conservation League.
Some, like Oppenheimer, worry that if the state took over the land, it would be too expensive and end up sold for profit.
"Public lands are truly one of Idaho's treasures, and we're afraid that if the state were to have complete management or control over those lands that we would see for sale signs go up, and ultimately no trespassing signs go up and we see that as a major issue Idahoans wouldn't really support," Oppenheimer said.
Some, like committee co-chair Representative Lawerence Denney, think the federal agencies get hamstrung by regulations and don't have tools to manage well enough. He thinks Idaho's land board could do things better.
"I think it's the analysis paralysis that's going on on the forests that prevents them from actually managing the forest," Denney said. "We are managing two and a half million acres now, and I think certainly on a larger scale, we could continue and manage more."
The interim committee is expected to work on this issue for two years and make recommendations in 2015.
Democrats argue the federal land transfer would violate Idaho's constitution. From the beginning of this conversation, Republicans say it can be done, and have argued Idaho's economy could be improved by state management, including by increased logging.
Next Monday on the News at 10, KTVB will air a special report segment on the Idaho Forest Products Commission's campaign to "Thin the Threat" by logging more. The report will include perspective from many involved in forest management.