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SB 1251: Exchange of state lands – 2022

Summary: Senate Bill 1251 would allow for a single permittee to block a land exchange

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Dead

Issue Areas: Grazing, Idaho Department of Lands, Public Lands

Official Legislative Site

Senate Bill 1251, introduced by Sen. Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs) would require that all exchanges of state lands with the federal government have the written permission of all permittees, including ranchers who hold grazing rights for any federal lands that are part of the exchange.

This bill could severely impact the Idaho Land Board’s ability to carry out their constitutionally-mandated duties and could open the Idaho Land Board up to new liabilities and make land exchanges with the federal government virtually impossible. 


At the time of statehood in 1890, the State of Idaho was granted 3.6 million acres to generate funds for public schools, universities and other state beneficiaries. Over time, some of those lands have been sold, and some have been exchanged to consolidate the lands in order to facilitate management.

For 12 years, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) worked on a land exchange with the Bureau of Land Management in Owyhee County, following the 2009 designation of Wilderness areas in the region. Pursuant to the Owyhee Initiative Agreement, which was broadly supported by ranchers, county commissioners, the conservationists, the state would work to trade lands inside the Wilderness for lands outside the boundary. While ICL and others supported the exchange, a small handful of ranchers opposed the proposal because federal grazing rights are more stable than state grazing permits. In the end, the Land Board approved IDL’s proposal and finalized the exchange in January 2021.

Had this bill been in place before that exchange had been finalized, a single rancher in the area could’ve derailed the entire process.