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Lawmaker wants federal fix in Yellowstone's legal blind spot

Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 15:37:18-05

BOISE, Idaho — A panel of Idaho lawmakers is recommending the Legislature ask Congress to fix a legal loophole that has some calling a portion of Yellowstone National Park the “Zone of Death.”

House Joint Memorial Resolution 3 passed the House Wednesday on a voice vote and now heads to the Senate.

The vast majority of the park sits in Wyoming, but a small part stretches into Montana and Idaho. The federal court in Wyoming has jurisdiction over the crimes committed within park borders, but a widespread legal theory suggests crimes committed in the Idaho portion can't be prosecuted.

That's because no one lives there, so prosecutors wouldn't be able to seat a jury. Boise Democratic Rep. Colin Nash's resolution asks Congress to transfer that jurisdiction to Idaho's federal courts.

“This comes up every once in a while when there's another disappearance in that region, but this would just send a message to Congress saying we are aware of this legal possibility. Return or for the first time, give the federal judicial district of Idaho jurisdiction to prosecute crimes in that 50 square miles swath of Yellowstone," Nash said on the House floor.