Times-News Twin Falls
If Idahoans aren't on high alert right now, we should be.
Listen to the steady drumbeat of those who feel federal lands should be under state control. If this effort moves forward without the watchful eye of those passionate about public access to the outdoors, that access could be limited to those who can afford it.
In a few days - on Aug. 9 - the Federal Lands Interim Committee will hold its first meeting. The charge of the group is to examine the viability of Idaho taking over management of federal lands within its borders and report back by the next session. The committee includes Rep. Steve Hartgen and Sen. Michelle Stennett and is chaired by Sen. Chuck Winder with Rep. Lawerence Denney.
Reading the agenda for the first day gave us hope that the recommendations of this committee will be fiscally responsible, driven by research and reason and won't be driven by ideology or the need to "send a message to Washington." We don't need to bankrupt the state or destroy our quality of life to send a message to anyone.
Our concern is the repeated references to the sale of the land in the background material provided to this committee, in past debates on this issue and in the language of Idaho Republican Party resolutions.
If the goal of the state taking over public federal land is to sell it off for short-term gains - with 5 percent going to education funding and 95 percent going to pay off the national debt as some have suggested - then Idaho residents should take heed.
House Speaker Scott Bedke was quoted in the Idaho Statesman when he argued on the floor last session that Idaho has a track record of efficient land management.
He said, "Say we took the proceeds from those lands and dedicated them to higher education, what would that look like? What if we took the proceeds from the next 500,000 acres and dedicated them to roads. What if we put more into public schools? That's the vision I'd like you to start thinking about."
Discussing "proceeds" from public land sales is different than management of that open space.
Land is a finite resource and access even more so - ask anyone from the southern or eastern state who pays to access land to hunt or fish. If Idaho is serious about heading in this direction - and the depth and breadth of the Federal Lands Interim Committee agenda suggests it is - this is the moment to remember that public land might look like a big piggy bank waiting to be broken open, but once it's broken, it can't be put back together.
... to U.S. Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Raul Labrador, both R-Idaho. The latest D.C. twaddle has Republicans threatening to shut down the federal government to force an Obamacare repeal.
Risch is among 11 GOP senators who have signed Utah Republican Mike Lee's threat. Labrador is among 66 Republicans who have endorsed a similar effort in the House from North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows.
Whatever Risch and Labrador are up to here, it's entirely self-serving: Playing to the GOP's fringe is a certain winner in the all-important closed primary.
Risch and Labrador are betting President Obama and the Democratic Senate so fear a shutdown that they'll defund Obamacare.
Of course, you're the hostages. While they sit comfortably in their congressional offices, workers at federal installations throughout Idaho - the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Idaho National Laboratory and others - will be sent home.
Like it or loathe it, Obamacare is settled. Congress passed it. The Supreme Court upheld it. And the voters rejected Mitt Romney, who pledged to repeal it.