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'Oregonians would do a better job of caring for our lands than a federal bureaucracy'

The bill exempts national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and tribal lands from being considered for transfer to the state.

Oregon lawmakers propose state control of public land

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — More than half the land in Oregon is owned by the federal government, but Republican lawmakers there have raised the possibility of transferring it to state control.

A bill sponsored by Grants Pass Republican Rep. Carl Wilson and three other lawmakers would create a task force to analyze the costs and benefits of such a move, reported The Statesman Journal (http://stjr.nl/2lSUanA ).

Wilson emphasized that he does not support selling Oregon's public land into private ownership and that his bill only calls for a study.

"I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad idea, or how it would actually work," said Wilson during a Thursday hearing on his bill. "But I have to believe Oregonians would do a better job of caring for our lands than a federal bureaucracy."

The bill exempts national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and tribal lands from being considered for transfer to the state.

TRACK | HB 2365 in the Oregon Legislature

During the hearing, every public speaker offering testimony opposed the idea of state control.

Conservation and sportsman's groups said Oregon couldn't afford to manage the land, while others disputed the need to fund such a task force when Oregon is facing a $1.8 billion shortfall.

Some speakers pointed to the state's plan to sell the 83,000-acre Elliott State Forest as evidence that federal lands may end up being privatized if moved to state control.

"The ultimate outcome of this bill would not be state land management of our public lands," said Dan Morse, conservation director for the Oregon Natural Desert Association. "The more likely outcome would be the future sale of our public lands when the state can't reasonably afford to manage them."

Wilson and other rural Republicans say studying the possibility is necessary because it may be one way to improve rural economies.

Cutbacks in logging due to overregulation have limited their countries' ability to fund services or protect against wildfires, the Republicans said.

"We used to have a vibrant economy, with good wages and good places to work," said bill co-sponsor Rep. Sal Esquivel of Medford. "So much of that has been shut off."

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Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press

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