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Idaho county OKs public land ordinances amid legal warning

Washington County Commissioners Lisa Collini, Nate Marvin and Kirk Chandler
Washington County Commissioners Lisa Collini, Nate Marvin and Kirk Chandler

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Commissioners in a rural Idaho county have approved three ordinances aimed at giving them authority over federal public lands despite warnings from state attorneys that the new rules are almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Washington County Commissioners approved the three ordinances Monday in a 2-1 vote, Boise State Public Radio reported.

Two ordinances purportedly give the county some authority over fire and road management on many federal public lands, which would mean road closures or prescribed burns would require approval from county commissioners and permit holders.

The third ordinance grants ranchers with federal grazing permits the ability to log or mine the federal land without seeking federal permission.

"All these ordinances have substance. They're all based in law," said Commissioner Kirk Chandler, who is a rancher.

But an opinion from the Idaho Attorney General's Office found that the ordinances were "highly likely" to be ruled illegal because of the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which places federal law above state and local law when they conflict.

State Rep. Lauren Necochea, a Democrat from Boise who serves on the House Natural Resources and Conservation Committee, requested the opinion.

She said she did so after Washington County Commissioners voted in August to keep legal advice on the ordinances from county Prosecutor Delton Walker secret from the public.

"I am weary of Idaho lawmakers acting outside their jurisdiction to make an ideological point because the legal costs of the fallout are always pushed onto taxpayers," Necochea said in an email.

Commissioner Nate Marvin, who voted against the ordinances and supported releasing Walker's analysis, said he is worried that taxpayers would be forced to bankroll future legal costs.

"I don't know where we would get the money to defend these ordinances," Marvin said.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

Associated Press


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