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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's bill for outside legal work to find a way take over federal public lands is up to about $61,000.
Documents obtained by The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/YMq8l2) in a story Tuesday show Holland & Hart charged about $20,000 for work from April to August. That's on top of about $41,000 the state previously paid.
"I think getting good, sound legal advice is well worth it," said Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, co-chair of the Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee.
Holland & Hart lawyer Bill Myers charges the state $420 an hour, according to documents obtained by the newspaper. Myers served as chief legal officer at the U.S. Department of Interior during the George W. Bush administration.
"Of course we have been criticized for not using the attorney general," Denney said. "But I'm not sure the attorney general has any attorneys on staff with the time or the expertise that Bill Myers has. So I think for us to get good, sound legal advice, I think it's a good idea for us to hire outside counsel."
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden can guide lawmakers without charge, but Wasden has repeatedly said the plan for Idaho to take control of 34 million acres of federal public lands isn't legally viable. That's why lawmakers opted for outside legal counsel, committee co-chair Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, has said.
Legal challenges remain, however, and Winder said rather than a takeover, the committee is considering smaller moves such as co-management of projects on federal lands.
"I think there are really good things that can come out of this process without turning the whole world upside-down," Winder said.
Denney was speaker of the Idaho House until losing that position two years ago. He is now running for Idaho secretary of state against Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise.
"I think it has been well worth the time," Denney said about the effort to take over federal lands. "Certainly, whether the state gains control or the federal government keeps control, I think we've highlighted the need for management on those lands."
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com
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