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BOISE - The Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee has hired outside legal counsel even though the state attorney general's office has questioned the legality of Idaho being able to take control of public lands away from the government.

The committee is relying on the Legislature's Legal Defense Fund to cover the private attorney's costs. So far, Idaho has paid the attorney nearly $26,000.

The panel, which has its own $20,000 budget, hired Boise attorney William Meyers, who also served as chief legal officer at the U.S. Department of Interior during the George W. Bush administration and has provided legal counsel on Idaho's wolf management process.

Republican Sen. Chuck Winder of Boise, the task force co-chair says Meyers has local expertise that the committee needs.

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