SB1252: Grazing permits as property – 2022
ICL's position: Oppose
Current Bill Status: Dead
Issue Areas: Idaho Department of Lands, Public Lands
Senate Bill 1252 would mandate grazing rights be considered property rights, requiring that permittees be compensated anytime a federal permit is sold, exchanged or otherwise disposed of or conveyed to the state.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs) is a companion to Senate Bill 1251, which seeks to limit the state’s ability to exchange lands with the federal government if an impacted grazing permittee objects.
Unfortunately, the bill conflicts with the clear language of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, which says, “the issuance of a permit pursuant to this Act shall not create any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the land.” It also appears to conflict with the Idaho Constitution which requires the Land Board to manage state lands for endowment beneficiaries as a whole, not individual ranchers.
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 was finalized, the Land Board would have been required to compensate ranchers for any “diminishment…or failure to recognize” their grazing lease.