DENVER (AP) – Colorado Republicans are joining GOP colleagues in other Western states trying to exert more control over federal lands.
The state Senate gave preliminary approval Monday to a bill giving state and local authorities so-called concurrent jurisdiction to federal forests and other lands. Republican sponsors say the bill could give local fire authorities the ability to act more quickly to fight fires on federal lands.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, cited confusion between local and federal authorities during recent wildfires, including the damaging Waldo Canyon and Black Forest blazes.
“We should have these discussions in a deliberate fashion before emergencies start,” said Lambert. “All you have to do is go back and look at … some of the most damaging fires and loss of property in Colorado history to know that we’re not there yet.”
The effort echoes attempts in other states to transfer federal lands. More than a third of Colorado’s land mass – about 24 million acres – is controlled by the federal government.
Democrats and environmental and sportsmen’s groups oppose the transfers as attempts to open more federal land to private development. The Colorado bill faces certain death when it heads to the state House, which Democrats control.
“This bill begins the creep of us losing access to our public lands,” said Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail.
State legislatures in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming have considered similar measures this year.
Utah in 2012 passed a state law calling on the federal government to transfer federal lands there into state ownership.
LINK: Senate Bill 39
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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