Four northern Idaho counties are asking the Bureau of Land Management to consider transferring to them federal lands within their boundaries.
But county officials disagree whether their action is the result of an earlier Nez Perce tribal request to the BLM for the same reason."As you know, the tax base of the counties is gradually eroding, and the acquisition of these lands could ease the burden of our taxpayers through sales to private ownership," said the letter Thursday from Clearwater, Idaho, Lewis and Nez Perce counties to Lanny Wilson of the BLM's Cottonwood office.
The federal agency has asked for input on the lands it manages in the area.
Nez Perce County Commissioner L. Bud George said the letter was not intended to conflict with the Nez Perce Tribe's interest in gaining BLM land on the reservation for its own use, but Lewis County Commission Harold Cloninger disagreed.
"Why should we give (BLM) lands to the tribe? We did this for the simple reason we are looking out for our constituents, just like they are looking out for their constituency," Cloninger said.
In March, a majority of the elected officials in the counties called for eliminating the tribe's treaty rights because it had placed land it bought outside the reservation in tax-exempt status and has lobbied Sen. James McClure, R-Idaho, on legislation allowing the Nez Perce and federal government to swap lands.
Some later proposed phasing out tribal reservations and granting compensation in return.
LuVerne Grussing, an outdoor recreation planner for the BLM, said the agency has about 140,000 acres in the four counties.
In late July, tribal and county officials tentatively agreed to meet on a quarterly basis to hash out disputes. But the two sides have not met since.