Browns Canyon

The Arkansas River cuts through Browns Canyon, now a national monument.

A Senate bill that would expand state authority over federal public lands is moving forward.

Senate Bill 15-039 seeks joint state-federal jurisdiction over areas controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

The proposed legislation has been criticized by advocacy groups as a backdoor attempt to put federal public lands in state control, claiming the move may lead to the land being sold off and placed in private ownership.

SB 15-039 passed its third reading Monday, preparing the legislation to move to the House.

The bill has been amended since it was first introduced in January, but its basic premise remains the same. It seeks “police power jurisdiction over certain federal lands for which the federal government has asserted only a proprietorial interest.” The bill would allow the state to tax federal lands, and would allow Colorado agencies to address wildfire dangers on federally managed lands.

The three Republican sponsors of the current bill - Sen. Kent Lambert, Sen. Bill Cadman and Rep. Bob Ranking – did not return calls requesting comment.

Conservation Colorado executive director Pete Maysmith called the SB 15-039 “a radical out-of-state agenda to seize control of our national public lands.” Maysmith claimed that while the amended bill is narrower in scope, it remains “a step toward loss of access for hunting and recreation and toward eventual privatization and development.”

SB 15-039 isn’t the only public lands bill to go before legislators. Last month, a Senate bill was introduced to create a commission studying the transfer of Colorado’s public lands from the federal government to the state. SB 15-232 was sponsored by three Republicans, Sen. Randy Baumgardner, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Rep. Don Coram.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 24 and assigned to the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

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