Leave federal public lands alone


Idaho legislators need to go out, enjoy the outdoors on public lands, and smell the wild roses.

State lawmakers are looking at passing legislation to transfer control of federal public lands in Idaho to the state. The state can't even take care of its state parks. The governor and the legislature severely cut funding to state parks several years ago.

What's the motive behind the takeover? It's anyone's guess. Sell off public lands to the highest bidder? Clear cut forests, strip mine mountains and overgraze grasslands for a one-time profit that leaves public lands in shambles?

Idaho has 33 million acres of federally managed lands and as a hunter, angler and camper, I don't want the beauty, recreational value and environmental quality of these lands compromised. Hunters, anglers and other recreationists need to speak up and tell Idaho legislators to leave federal public lands alone.

Idaho legislators, being led by House Resources and Conservation Committee Chairman Lawerence Denney, are out of touch. They need a reality check.

Conservationists and outdoor folks need to stop this legislation. The Idaho Conservation League offered some stats from a recent poll on the value of public lands:

- 76 percent of Idahoans agree that "one of the things our federal government does well is protect and preserve our national heritage through the management of forests, national parks and other public lands."

- 87 percent of Idahoans are "satisfied with the quality and quantity of outdoor recreational opportunities in Idaho."

- 97 percent of Idahoans agree that "our public lands, including forests, national parks, monuments and wildlife areas are an essential part of Idaho's quality of life.

If Idahoans don't stand up for their federal public lands, they may soon find no trespassing signs at the favorite hiking, camping and hunting grounds.

Snow-covered Boise Mountains in the Boise National Forest - federal public lands. Photo by Pete Zimowsky/Idaho Statesman

"Leaves the land in

"Leaves the land in shambles" Really? This post assumes federal lands in Idaho are currently under sustainable management. Really? Did you forget that 1.5 million acres of mostly federal land in Idaho burned last summer? The federal agencies in charge are doing a lousy job of managing. Could the State of Idaho do any worse? This post exemplifies a city dweller's self interests with no regard for anyone else. Someone with the influence and power of the Idaho Statesman behind them should know and understand our state better. Consider Custer County, made up of over 90 percent federal land, dwindling tax base, its best and brightest forced to leave after they graduate high school becuase there are no jobs and no opportunity, can't build new schools because increasing taxes on the few private landowner residents would break them, the list goes on and on. Take a trip sometime and try talking to people who live in central Idaho. Educate yourself a little before you publish this me-first garbage - please.


That is exactly what I thought reading Zimo's post.

The answer is yes

The state of Idaho could do a lot worse than the Feds! The state is always short on money and their answer to that problem would be to sell the land to their buddies for private hunting, mining, grazing, etc. The public land would no longer belong to everyone to enjoy and the natural beauty would be compromised and trashed before future generations could enjoy it.

Kudos, Zimo, for a well

Kudos, Zimo, for a well written article. Thumbs down to those whose only interest is harvesting what is not harvestable. Some people vision is limited by their self-serving blinders. Idaho would be in deep trouble financially if it were to take over all the federal land in Idaho. Take into consideration the many, many federal jobs in Idaho due to the federal lands. The elimination of those jobs in and of itself would cause havoc with taxes paid to all taxing entities throughout the state. Many of those federal employees would leave the state to continue their federal employment and careers. Some people have no idea of the havoc this would play in small towns, counties and school districts.

Thanks, Zimo.


Do you really think that the feds will just turn it over if the legislature demands it? It's just another silly way for our boneheaded legsilature to waste time tilting at windmills.

Recreationists are sitting on their hands

There is no mounting support against the proposed legislation to turn over federal lands to the state.
I've been to Eastern states where you have to pay the landowner to get on a river to float or fish it. That's the beauty of living in Idaho where we have places to hunt and fish.

I don't think anyone is

I don't think anyone is saying the feds need to turn over every acre of federal land in Idaho to Idaho. What would be nice is if they could turn over some of it in order to help preserve our rural communities. The point I'm trying to make is the federal agencies could do a much better job of being partners in both sustainably managing the great open spaces of the American West while at the same time allowing the development of some renewable resources to help sustain rural communities. Wouldn't that be better than watching it burn while our rural counties depopulate?

Let's also not loose sight of the fact that this state was settled at the behest of federal government via the Homestead Act and subsequent legislation that created irrigation projects. The few folks still out there making a living off the land are what's left of our state's heritage.

Fed vs State

I recall you saying the same things about the federal lands.

They cut funding. You have posted in your blog several times about FS closing camp grounds early, or late, or not being open when you thought they should be.

How many emails have you read about FS closing roads to motorcycles, ATVS, and other access?

Leaving the land in shambles. Certainly the Statesman writers have criticized the federal management of allowing "overgrazing" and other mismanagement.

Come on!

Your stats are misleading. Teh public wants public lands- yes.
But that can be accomplished with STATE public lands too.

Zimo, I think your problem would be the state would require frequent users, such as YOURSELF, to actually pay for their frequent use.

YOUR headines/quotes
Face it, the $10 pass is a good deal and hopefully it will help financially strapped state parks.

The Forest Service must change its rules for floating the Selway

Budget cuts for federal land-management agencies probably make law enforcement patrols for litter a low priority

When it comes to charging fees to use public lands, expect more decisions and controversy to come

[Yurts] The incident revealed that the state was lacking the proper permits with the Forest Service,

Shall I go on?

Fire acreage misleading

Fire on the land burns in varying degrees of intesity. Sometimes just the grass and brush burn leaving the timber alone. Sometimes everything is burned. To say that Idaho lost a million acres to fire is misleading. Grass, brush and even timber grow back. The only way the State taxpayers could afford to pay the bills currently paid by all US taxpayers would be to clear cut the timber and lease the land to cattle and sheep interests or sell it to people that will not let other people on what was once all our land.

Bureaucracy Small is Better than Bureacracy Big

The "western states" of 1828 (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida) struggled with the same issues we face today from the federal government failing to transfer title to their public lands (i.e., poor education funding, stifled economy, restricted access to abundant resources, etc.). Those 1828 "western states" succeeded in compelling the federal government to transfer title to their public lands.

We can do it and do it better. All Idahoans, all westerners will have more say in the process.

These states have no trespassing signs everywhere

Florida is wall-to-wall development. I couldn't find any places to hunt that weren't private hunting preserves.
I don't want Idaho to be a private hunting preserve.


You gotta get out of Miami dude.

Florida has 164 state state Wildlife management areas for PUBLIC hunting.
5.5 Million acres.

Just because you didn't find one for your one week vacation Zimo, doesn't mean Florida doesnt' have public hunting lands.

And when it comes to hunting public lands, we all know it is the bottom of the totem pole for quality, even here in Idaho. So anyone going to another has to have a hook-up to have good result. Just like here.

No trespassing

The county where my mom lived was total no trespassing every place I tried to explore.


Yeah, that happens to me too when I "explore" instead of getting a map, using a phone, and planning out my trip AHEAD of time.

Try to come up with a better reason than "my mom didn't know of any good places to go".

A mess

The state wildlife management lands I saw in Florida during hunting season were a mess. Too many hunters concentrated in small areas.
I've paddled all the federal wildlife refuges in Florida. Luckily, they are federal lands.


Wait, first you wrote, there are no public lands in Florida to hunt. Now you are writing you saw more than one WMA and they were a mess.

A mess? Any more messing than Fort Hall WMA? Any more crowded than Payette WMA?


You have paddled ALL 29 federal wildlife refuges in Florida?

Sounds like a good book or a good fishing story.

Responder - umm it was 1.5

Responder - umm it was 1.5 million acres and it burned from early July until late September. Those are USFS numbers and there's nothing remotely misleading about it. Yeah, timber grows back - it only takes 80 years. If the land would have been managed in the first place the intensity of the fires would have been less. A lot of that timber could have been harvested and used to provide jobs that support rural communities. Now it's no good to anyone. And what bills are you referring to? If the land were turned over to private interests it would generate tax dollars. If the state owned it, it could be used to generate logging, mining and grazing receipts. If it can't generate revenue in some way, let the feds keep it and do nothing with it except close roads and block access they way they have for the last 20 years or longer.

Recreation is good for the economy

• Supports 37,000 jobs across Idaho
• Generates $154 million in annual state tax revenue
• Produces $2.2 billion annually in retail sales and services across Idaho – more than five percent of the gross state product.


So what. We know that.
And Idahoans like the outdoor recreation. We know that too.

How is state management instead of federal management going to change that?

Endowment lands

The state manages public lands as endownment lands to make money for schools, not for the benefit of recreation.
If they have to sell it, so be it.
If you remember, Boise Cascade used to let us cross-country ski, hunt and explore their lands north of Round Valley. When they sold it, it became off limits to recreationists. It is now being developed for housing tracts.
One land is lost to the public, it is lost forever.

Yes, Recreation is Good for the Economy

On the Clearwater National Forest Rick Brazell, the Forest Supervisor, is doing away with Recreation, which was the promised relief when logging was extinguished. A trail near my home has been promised for two years (not at my request) and now I am told there is no money, but there is money to obliterate grown-over roads that are only used as hiking trails. The Lochsa Historical Ranger Station (a museum open Memorial Day to Labor Day) was slated to be closed due to budget cuts. It is manned by volunteers. We had to cajole them into opening it last year. In and older incident, a ranger clearcut the Jerry Johnson Campground.

We can do it better.


If Idaho keeps letting New Yorkers manage our lands, hunting will not be allowed.

In an era of apparent Idaho

In an era of apparent Idaho GOP fiscal austerity, why would the conservative Idaho GOP authoritarian state government seek to accept billions of dollars in liability and management responsibility to assume ownership over 30 million acres of parks, forests and public lands in Idaho.

The wholesale takeover of public lands would bankrupt the state as it attempted to maintain thousands of miles of forest roads, campgrounds and infrastructure built by federal land agencies over the years and it would rob residents of a valuable resource.

Idaho government official’s have no intent to maintain public lands, they already have been given plans by lobbyists ans corporations to sell off specific public lands to private for profit businesses.

Will Idaho GOP control government offer transparency in public land sales, who gets the money, who will decide which mineral rich lands are sold to which wealthy corporate Idaho GOP donor, will the people get to vote on which lands are sold and to whom.

Idahoans who utilize our great states public land for adventure will be forbidden to use some areas and have substantial restrictions placed on access to other areas such as high user fees.

Beware what you support rural taterville your way of life depends on it.


To live our lifestyle, so we can have a smart-phone, conservatives and liberals alike are ruining the environment. The environment of China and therefore our world. We have the notion, that if we have a hands-off approach to American lands we are protecting the environment. There is the fallacy. China is part of the world environment, too. So mining our lithium there, and in Bolivia, causes more pollution than if we did it in Nevada and maintained reasonable standards. Did you see the smog in Bejing last week?

We are treating the people of Idaho fairly. Are we treating the children of China fairly? No. They are working in sweatshops like Foxconn taking away jobs from us.

We can manage our natural resources and our human resources better than China or the U.S. government.

In an Era....

IF Idaho manages the land, Idahoans of all perogatives would have more say. IF the land is liquidated (that is a minority opinion), more people would be moving into Idaho, diversifying it and it's political machine. Balancing life further.

As for not being able to use the land, that is already happening. Use fees are on the rise.

Something HAS to change. The Status quo is a no go.

The State of ID

will "manage" the additional lands by clear cutting, strip mining and selling it to private interests that will lock it up.


Scare tactics? Really?

Not scare tactics

That's the way it is by law. The state can use endowment lands for profit and that could mean selling it.

OK folks, thanks

Good discussion on the issue of public lands. Appreciate it.

Idaho Lands

"If Idahoans don't stand up for their federal public lands, they may soon find no trespassing signs at the favorite hiking, camping and hunting grounds." Zimo

"The state can't even take care of its state parks." Zimo

Please, the state of Idaho does as good a job of resource management as the feds ever have. In fact, there is a a lack of money/funding and a huge backlog of work and on National Forest System Lands right now. See the gov't report, Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, Congressional Research Report February 8, 2012.

Also, I have seen many Idaho Dep't of Lands forestry projects that looked like a park after logging. Idaho Public Lands would be administered the same as federal lands and there will NOT be "No Trespassing" signs up at your favorite, hiking, camping and hunting grounds as Zimo would have you believe. National Parks, Wilderness Areas or Recreation Areas will stay the same and Idaho's Public Lands would still be open to the public. For the first time how state lands are managed would be by the desires of Idaho voters and not New Yorkers or Californians.

Federal lands in Idaho have never been turned over to the states as promised. The federal government made promises to Idaho and other states (at statehood when the federal government obtained the lands) that the federal ownership would be of limited duration and that the bulk of those lands would be disposed of in a timely fashion by the federal government and/or otherwise returned to the State.

The return Idaho's public lands to it's righful owner, the people of Idaho, would be a huge boon to Idaho and would give you a MORE voice in its management according to Idaho's needs/wants. I'm very much in favor of this occuring.

Yay! More Tiki-taki!


People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

Forest Circus

Although there are many good and well intentioned boys and girls working for the Forest Service it is bureaucratic nightmare. A growing majority of the people in its upper management do not want ANY human activity on public land. With the growing push in DC for an all powerfull federal nanny state I think the time has come for the good people of Idaho to control it's land.

When they can control themselves (legislature)...


People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.