Idaho Republicans support public lands but favor state management of the federal public lands.

 

Idaho’s Republican Party platform states “that due to state and federal governments administering the majority of Idaho lands, we need to limit and reduce the amount of land owned or administered by the federal government. We believe Idaho should manage and administer all state and federal lands.”

In that one statement, the Idaho Democratic Party has tried to falsely claim that Idaho Republicans are against public land. But the Idaho Republican Party is not. Rather, the Republican Party is in favor of the state of Idaho MANAGING public land rather than the federal government managing the land.

The top-down federal control of federal public lands in Idaho has not generally worked well for healthy forest, wildlife, watershed management and recreational access. The federal government owns 32.6 million of Idaho’s 52.9 million acres. East of the Mississippi, the federal government owns less than 5% of the land of the states, but in Idaho it is 62%.

For every $1 the federal government invests in public land, they lose at least 22 cents. For every $1 Idaho invests in public land, they gain $2.80. Idaho land management accrues to the benefit of Idahoans for public education, wildlife habitat, economic diversity, recreation and wildfire mitigation.

Idaho already successfully manages much state owned public land among several state agencies that include the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) and Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG). The Idaho Department of Lands is one example of an efficient agency for public land management. IDL currently manages 2.5 million acres of endowment land, which produces revenue that benefits public schools and public universities. These lands are also accessible for recreational use by Idahoans, and responsible and active forest management results in a healthier forest.

A change of land ownership for federal public lands in Idaho is not even on the table, and it is only in the complete control of the federal Congress. The national Congress has generally opposed the transfer of ownership of public lands to the states since 1976. If transfers are ever seriously considered at the national level, then there’d be much debate about who should then own the lands, with multiple stakeholders at the table including native American tribes making claims on such transfers as well.

But, in the meantime, IDL is assisting in the timber sale administration and providing valuable forest management expertise for timber sales on federal land in Boundary County.

Timber sales on lands IDFG has managed have helped to support the costs of wildlife habitat management throughout the state.

One of the great benefits of state management of public lands, whether for conservation, wildlife, wildfire control or timber harvesting, is control closer to home from a relatively small, responsive state government that is subject to the voters rather than management by a huge federal bureaucracy 3,000 miles away in Washington, D.C., to which Idahoans have no effective redress.