Two resolutions are headed to the Senate after House lawmakers backed a resolution seeking transfer of all federal lands in Idaho to the state.
The 55-13 party-line vote Thursday reflected long-standing Republican frustration with federal management practices, as well as with the appeals and litigation that have contributed to a dramatic decline in federal timber harvests.
The resolution indicates that national parks, monuments, wilderness areas, Indian reservations, Department of Defense and Department of Energy lands would be ceded back to the government after title is transferred.
The main bill sponsor, Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, said disposing of the public lands has been standard practice throughout much of the country's history, either by selling them to pay down the national debt or by giving them to homesteaders to encourage settlement.
"Most states east of Colorado have very little federal lands as a result of this policy," he said.
Idaho gave up all claim to these public lands in its statehood admissions act and agreed not to tax them - doing so, Denney said, in the expectation the federal government would then divest itself of the lands as it had done back East. That hasn't happened, and combined with the reduced timber harvests and dysfunctional management practices, he said, it's having a detrimental effect on Idaho's economy.
A second resolution, also approved Thursday, asks for an interim committee to study the issue in greater detail and come back with potential legislation next session.
Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, said the second resolution makes perfect sense, but the first resolution forged ahead too quickly.