Public Lands on the Chopping Block
An interim legislative committee is set to consider the prospect of a takeover of all federally-managed public lands in the state of Idaho. The radical proposal threatens core Idaho values and could lead to a wholesale sell-off of Idaho's most special places.
Idaho's public lands are an essential part of our heritage and should not be subject to political winds of the day. J. Oppenheimer photo.
On August 9, an interim legislative committee is set to consider the prospect of a takeover of all federally-managed public lands in the state of Idaho. This radical proposal threatens core Idaho values and could lead to a wholesale sell-off of Idaho's most special places.
The Interim Committee resulted from passage of two resolutions during the 2012 Idaho legislative session. Among other things, the purpose of the committee is to determine "the extent to which public land may be sold."
Idaho is not alone, however.
A new report from the National Wildlife Federation reports that at least seven western states have considered or enacted similar legislation. Among other things, the NWF report finds that public lands are essential to our economy and our quality of life.
The Outdoor Industry Association reports that outdoor recreation, much of it on federally-managed public lands, generates 77,000 direct Idaho jobs, $6.3 billion in spending and $1.8 billion in wages.
Polling conducted in 2012 affirmed that 97% of Idahoans consider our public lands essential to Idaho's quality of life. That same poll, conducted by respected Republican pollster Moore Information, found that 73% of Idahoans agreed that one of the things our federal government does well is protect and preserve our national heritage through the management of our forests, parks and other public lands.
Unfortunately, Idaho's leaders appear to be out of touch with Idaho values and more aligned with the values of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been promoting similar efforts throughout the west.
Idaho's leaders want to ignore the fact that our forests and public lands are treasures that belong to all Idahoans and all Americans, they want to ignore the fact that this land-grab is unconstitutional, and they want to sell off millions of acres in Hells Canyon, the Sawtooths, the Clearwater and the Selkirks.
The first meeting of the Interim Committee is scheduled for August 9 in the Capitol's East Wing, Room EW42 at 9 am. We'll be there, will you?