After a two-year study, Attorneys General from 12 western states agreed that the legal theory behind public land transfer holds no water. In other words, any state pursuing a legal path to seize control of our public lands is wasting time and taxpayer money. Stick a fork in it — it’s done. But before we move beyond this regrettable chapter of western history, let’s reflect back to Idaho’s role in the life and death of a really bad idea.
The Ivory theory
Jan. 21, 2013 — In a rare joint meeting of Idaho’s House and Senate resource committees, Utah Rep. Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) [left] laid out his legal theory that claimed Idaho should file a lawsuit against the federal government to gain control over public lands. The theory asserts that Idaho was promised the land in its founding documents from the late 1800s. Several Idaho lawmakers eagerly embraced the theory.
CVI warned from the beginning that the Ivory theory was based on a flawed interpretation of the Constitution and reality.
Cart before horse
April 2, 2013 — With the House and Senate fighting over details of the public school budget, Idaho lawmakers had a few extra days to pass some really bad legislation. HCR 21 and HCR 22 simultaneously demanded the government turn over land to the states while creating an interim committee to figure out how to sue for those lands. In other words, they put the cart before the horse.
CVI lobbied against both bills.
Don’t believe Ivory’s lies
August 9, 2013 — In its first meeting, the Idaho Federal Lands Interim Committee (FLIC) heard from Idaho Deputy Attorney General Steve Strack, who presented his research on the founding of Idaho as a state. According to the Ivory theory, the people who agreed to statehood did so with the understanding that Idaho would get all the federal lands. But that theory was wrecked when Strack presented this quote from one of Idaho’s founding fathers:
“I did not suppose for a moment we would ever have any control of the public lands of the United States…” — Senator Weldon Heyburn [left]
CVI lobbied the committee to oppose this effort and we reminded Idaho Legislators to listen to the Idaho Attorney General’s office.
When in doubt, lawyer up
June 2, 2014 — After some FLIC members didn’t like the Attorney General’s findings, they hired a private attorney. That attorney, Bill Myers [left], charged $420 per hour to research the legal validity of the Ivory theory in an attempt to find cause to sue for public lands.
CVI repeatedly told the committee that the Ivory theory was based on a flawed interpretation of the Constitution and reality.
The shell game
January 20, 2015 — After spending more than $100,000 of taxpayer money, the FLIC issued a final report that said, “The Committee recommends against filing litigation against the federal government at this time.” Translation: The Ivory theory was nothing more than a shell game, pushing for a state seizure of our public lands without any legal merit.
But that didn’t stop Idaho lawmakers from trying many other attempts to take away our public lands. Since 2015, there have been a total of six anti-public lands bills. CVI fought them all. Only one passed.
They don’t seem to learn
February 29, 2016 — Like a zombie, the Ivory theory rose from the dead by a Louisiana law firm who is trying to scam Utah lawmakers out of $14 million of taxpayer’s money to file suit against the federal government using the defunct legal theory. But when those lawyers and a handful of Utah lawmakers came to the Idaho Capitol to sell their scheme, hundreds of Idahoans were waiting for them.
CVI helped organize the rally, which filled up the large committee room. The sheer size of the audience sent a powerful message that Idahoans are opposed to state seizure of our public lands and we don’t much appreciate the snake-oil salesmen who peddle it.
The death of a really bad idea
July 19, 2016 — After two years researching the validity of the Ivory theory, a group of Attorneys General voted 11-1 to accept the findings of their study, which said the Ivory theory is a bunch of baloney. They warned that Utah’s $14 million lawsuit is predicated on shaky legal grounds. The Attorneys General put to rest the argument that state politicians and special interests are somehow entitled to the public lands that belong to the people of the United States.
CVI is proud to have been on the right side of this issue from the very beginning. It’s important that lawmakers and political leaders pursue public policies that fall within the confines of the Constitution and what’s best for Idaho. In this case, many lawmakers were clearly not following that simple directive.
The bill $$$
So how much did the Ivory theory cost the state of Idaho?
- More than $100,000 — between the cost of the committee and Myers’ $420-per-hour price tag
- Countless hours of lawmakers’ time when they could have been doing something productive — a total of 13 hearings throughout the state
- Tens of thousands of hours of Idahoans time — hundreds of people testified and thousands worked to convince lawmakers that the Ivory theory was bogus
- The people of Idaho
- Ken Ivory, who paid himself $135,000 in 2014 to push his false theory.