University of Idaho Report Finds Public Lands Takeover Would Lose Money

by

PETER FITZGERALD, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Peter Fitzgerald, Wikimedia Commons

In 2013, the Idaho Legislature opened the discussion of taking over nearly 34 million acres of federal lands in the state, creating the Federal Lands Interim Committee to study potential benefits and costs of the takeover. Two reports later came before the committee—one stating the transfer would earn money, the other stating a loss. 

To clear up the question, former Midvale Republican Rep. Lawerence Denney, the committee co-chair and incoming Idaho secretary of state, requested the University of Idaho's College of Natural Resources Policy Analysis Group analyze questions of cost.
 
Last month, the University of Idaho delivered that study, stating Idaho could experience a loss of up to  $111 million a year should it take over federal lands. Best case scenario, the report predicted a gain of $24 million depending on timber price, highway maintenance and management of grazing and mineral lands.

University of Idaho study on public lands transfer
After the report was released, the Idaho Conservation League contacted Evan Hjerpe, an economist at the Boise-based Conservation Economics Institute. He found several shortcomings in the report, but still determined that "eight out of nine scenarios would cause the state of Idaho to lose millions of dollars annually." 

His analysis claims the report ignored a great loss that could happen in the 10-15 years following the transfer, which could amount to $2 billion while timber harvests get under way. 

"[The report] suffers from a number of critical economic deficiencies and deserves to be closely scrutinized before it is used as a basis for further deliberation on this topic," wrote Hjerpe in a letter to the Federal Lands Interim Committee.

Conservation Economics Institute Letter to Federal Lands Interim Committee
Considering the report and Hjerpe's findings, the interim committee will hold a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 1:30 p.m. to determine how to move forward. The meeting will be broadcast live from the East Wing 42 meeting room.