FORT HALL, Idaho -
Since August, a special committee has been meeting to discuss federal land in Idaho. Some lawmakers want the state of Idaho to take over lands that are managed by the federal government. At the most recent meeting last week, the Federal Lands Interim Committee heard from special interest groups.
Tribal leaders from across Idaho said that if the state were to take over federal lands, it would hurt their rights that had been guaranteed by treaty.
"We have lived here for thousands and thousands and thousands of years, and we would like to continue living here," said Nathan Small, chairman of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
In a letter and a statement, Small let the committee know that he was "unequivocally opposed" to Idaho taking over federal lands.
The issue is not over reservation land, it's about tribal rights guaranteed by treaty.
"Part of the treaty has a lot to do with what happens outside of the boundary of the reservation. We have retained a lot of rights to hunting and fishing and gathering," Small said.
State legislator Janet Trujillo is in support of Idaho taking over federal lands but said that the tribal concerns are new to her.
"As far as the tribal issues go, I really haven't had the opportunity to sit down and listen to what they are. I know about some concerns, and they are valid concerns and they are things that have to be worked out," said Trujillo, from Idaho Falls District 33.
"During the hearing, some of them wanted to know if there is a chance if we can maybe enter into agreements with the state of Idaho, but I think the state of Idaho has an entirely different idea on what they wanted to do with this federal lands. You know, they want to open it up for mining and forestry and grazing," said Small of last week's meeting.
There hasn't been any official decision on what the land would be used for, but there is economic interest.
"It would be an extreme economic boost to the state. It would be great for the endowment. It would be great for our schools," said Trujillo.
"This land has been in our generations from way back when, from time immemorial, and we would like to keep it that way," said Small.
Some refer to the debate as Idaho taking back federal land. The land in question was deemed the federal government's as part of the Idaho's constitution when it became a state.
The next meeting for the Federal Lands Interim Committee is Dec. 4.