KINGMAN — An Idaho county commissioner gave an update last week to the Mohave County supervisors on his efforts to transfer federal public lands to local governments.
Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik described the federal government and various environmental groups as rattlesnakes that will bite the hand that picks it up. He said he wants counties throughout the West to join together.
Chmelik also compared federal lands to a baseball stadium and said the states need to build their own stadium. He also said that the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, are interested in his efforts, and could contribute millions to the effort.
The board, in full agreement of Chmelik’s efforts, authorized a letter of support and a letter of intent to budget $5,000 from the general fund for legal services in efforts to transfer public lands to the states. The board previously contributed $5,000 to the American Lands Council formed by Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory.
District 2 Sup. Hildy Angius of Bullhead City said she spoke to U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flakes in the effort to transfer public lands. She said federal lands are mostly Bureau of Land Management lands, not national parks, military lands or Native American lands.
District 3 Sup. Buster Johnson argued that the effort should be to transfer the federal lands to county control, not the states, because the state government would screw it up as much as the federal government.
The board also accepted a draft report from the office of management and budget on the options to transfer public lands to private hands. The office based the report on a similar one issued by Yuma County in 2014. The board voted to bring back the draft in 60 days with more information to accept it.
The report estimated that if all the federal and state lands were transferred to the county tax rolls, it would generate $27.3 million of which
$4.7 million would go to the general fund. However, the county would lose $3.4 million it now gets from federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes.
Arizona and Mohave County voters rejected transferring federal lands to the state when it went before voters with Proposition 120 in 2012. In Arizona, voters opposed the measure 67 percent to 32 percent. Mohave County voters rejected Prop 120 by 62 percent to 37 percent. Every county in the state rejected Prop 120.
Federal lands comprise about 71 percent of the 8.6 million acres of land in Mohave County with BLM owning about 55 percent. About 17.1 percent of county land is privately owned. State lands in the county amount to 6.5 percent. Tribal lands amount to 5 percent. The National Park Service owns 13.3 percent in Mohave County.