Friday, April 5, 2013

The No Trespassing State?

Idaho legislators would never think of inviting the federal government to send the state thousands of poor sick people and force the state to pick up the tab to care for them. If the federal government proposed dumping poor sick people onto Idaho’s welfare rolls, every legislator in the state would be yelling from the rooftops that such a move would bankrupt it.

If supporters argued that making sick people healthy would expand the workforce and improve the economy, legislators would say they were crazy.

Yet the very same legislators are demanding that the federal government cede all of its lands to state ownership. The state has no budget to care for the lands, but it wants them anyway on the theory that having more land will somehow magically improve the economy.

Dist. 26 Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, thinks this is a fine idea and voted for the memorial to Congress that demands the land. Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, wisely opposed it, as did Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum.

Idaho’s record in managing the lands it already owns is spotty. It’s been rife with favoritism and poor judgment. Recent history includes approval of sweetheart leases with cabin owners that didn’t survive a court challenge, gravel mining in the Salmon River, a gravel pit on state land smack in the center of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area north of Ketchum and stripping local governments of any control over the location of oil and gas drilling operations.

Legislators should be careful what they wish for. If they get federal lands and are forced to sell them off to care for them, they will go down in history as the lawmakers who turned the Gem State into the No Trespassing State.

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