Editor’s note: This is an editorial by Marty Trillhaase published in the Lewiston Tribune, March 15, 2017, discussing the issue of transparency on public access to state lands. Reprinted here with permission.
Let’s just call this the mystery of the Troy Turnaround.
As in state Rep. Caroline Troy.
Certainly the Genesee Republican was hardly the only Idaho House member to do a 180 last week on a simple resolution ordering the Idaho Department of Lands to disclose where and when the rest of us can visit the 2.4 million acres it manages on behalf of Idaho’s endowments.
In fact, another 20 members-including Reps. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, and Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston-first voted to pass the measure before turning around and helping to defeat it.
Others-including Reps. Mike Kinglsey, R-Lewiston, and Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins-never liked the idea. They voted no on both occasions. Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, voted for it twice.
By standing up and asking for reconsideration, however, Troy put her imprimatur on the maneuver.
You might ask her. So far, no explanation has proven plausible.
For instance, why would it require an act of the Legislature to get an inventory of endowment lands? IDL says much of the information is already available online through an Idaho Fish and Game website (fishandgame.idaho.gov/ifwis/huntplanner/mapcenter). The two state agencies are collaborating to add a GIS component to the system, which should be available within a month.
If that doesn’t work, there’s Idaho’s Public Records Act. Skeptics can compel IDL-a state agency responsible for managing public lands-to disclose what it has. Even if the information is not entirely user-friendly, the Wilderness Society and the Idaho Conservation League have proven themselves adept at massaging raw IDL information into a format the average citizen can comprehend.
When the resolution came up before the House Resources and Conservation Committee earlier this month, Director Tom Schultz did not oppose the measure.
It’s no secret that IDL’s constitutional mandate is to manage these endowment lands to make the most money possible. Public access is a secondary consideration. Nobody gets much heartburn over that-except, of course-those legislators still agitating for transferring some 32 million acres of federal forests and rangeland within Idaho’s borders to the state.
Gearing state management more toward resource extraction than conservation and recreation gives pause to many Idahoans who use the federal lands primarily for recreation. Or worse-there’s a well-founded fear that a cash-strapped state would be forced to liquidate those holdings to a wealthy few, who then will fence out everyone else.
No wonder the issued has stalled out repeatedly since the first Sagebrush Rebellion ignited more than 30 years ago.
The Troy Turnaround did nothing to assuage that angst. In fact, it made things worse. It reminded everyone how the state’s political leadership is hardly committed toward ensuring public access to any federal lands Idaho would manage or acquire outright.
Talk about awful timing. Just days earlier, 3,000 people rallied at the Statehouse because they don’t trust the state with their federal lands.
Whatever else you want to say about the Idaho House, it’s not in the habit of handing such a political bonanza to the state’s environmental movement.
So what’s going on here? This can’t be the final word.