This article originally appeared on the IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE website on March 5, 2019.
Mar 05, 2019
Your public lands are under attack at the Idaho Statehouse. Find out more about the bills that threaten your public land heritage and speak up today!
The Idaho House of Representatives has been a source of several anti-public land memorials and bills this session. While some have failed before they reached the House floor, another is under consideration in the Senate and they threaten your public lands! It’s time to Stand Up and Be Heard!
House Bill 162
By far the most troubling bill, HB 162 bears a scary resemblance to the Federal Lands Interim Committee, that wrapped up its work in 2014. That committee hired outside legal counsel (at a rate of $435/hr) and looked into how Idaho could seize control of federally-administered public lands, that Idahoans treasures. Although the committee didn’t do anything besides spend upwards of $100,000 from Idaho’s taxpayers, Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) is back with an another attempt to control your public lands.
House Bill 162 would establish a permanent council. So unlike the previous interim committee, this council would be en perpetua. The council would have the ability to negotiate contracts between federal agencies and private individuals or state and local governments. Currently, there are a dozen commissions, councils and boards that could have their efforts interfered with by this council. What’s more, collaborative efforts has been successful in resolving issues related to public lands in Idaho, including wildfire management, roadless areas, wilderness designation and more. So, why do we need another government council to come in, spend taxpayer dollars and muddy up successful collaborative efforts? This federal council is seeking to undermine the progress those collaborative efforts are making and it poses a real threat. In fact, even the Office of the Attorney General has his hesitations regarding this bill.
ICL is fighting hard to stop this dangerous bill from making its way into law. With your help, on March 11th, we demonstrated that Idahoans care about their public lands. Due to the opposition to the bill, the Senate Resources Committee sentHB 162 to the amending order. This means that changes can be made to the current bill, or it could be left their to die if it isn’t brought up before adjournment. If it is amended it would need to return to the House for concurrence, but it would not have further public hearings.
Based on information received from several senators, it appears that HB 162 will remain on the Amending Order until adjournment, when the bill would die for lack of action.
House Joint Memorial 5
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s another attempt to get rid of your public lands. HJM 5, if passed through the Senate, would ask the U.S. Congress to limit the sale of private lands to the federal government, by requiring the federal government to simultaneously sell equivalent public land in their county into private ownership. This would complicate willing-seller transactions, making it nearly impossible for private property owners to sell their land for public purposes.
The rationale offered by sponsor Rep. Terry Gestrin (R-Donnelly) is that Idahoans are supposedly being hurt by the amount of public land within their counties as federal lands are not taxable. But access to public lands is often cited as a benefit to local communities and is a big driver for economic growth. As the nation’s fastest growing state, we should be working to protect and enhance public access, not encouraging privatization of public lands. This memorial encourages the sale and privatization of public lands.
HJM 5 was heard by the Senate Resources Committee on Monday, March 18, where it died for lack of a motion to move it to the Senate Floor for further consideration.
House Joint Memorial 8
Yet another memorial asking Congress to enact legislation would leave over 500,000 acres of pristine backcountry areas vulnerable to development. These wilderness study areas (WSAs) were designated to BLM to protect their potential for future wilderness designation. While they are under review, these areas receive some protections, to ensure that the values are protected pending congressional designation. That said, many of these areas are open to recreation (including motorized and non-motorized), hunting, fishing, grazing, mining claims, etc. HJM 8 ignores the fact that collaboration between the stakeholders — including ranchers, conservationists, sportsmen and women and local citizens — is the only way that we’ve ever released wilderness study areas in the past. In fact, we’ve addressed more than 41 percent of the WSA acres in the state just in the last decade. Simply put, this memorial would undermine successful collaboration that is working to resolve issues related to management of WSAs.
Unfortunately, HJM 8 passed in the Senate.
Take Action (because it’s working!)
ICL works hard to protect the lands you love. Sometimes our voice just isn’t enough, though. As fellow public land lovers and outdoor enthusiasts we’re asking you to step up and make your voice heard. If you feel like you need more information in order to write comments, visit our bill tracker or listen to our legislative update podcast. We try to make it easy for you and provide talking points and quick facts on our take action sitewhere you can speak up for a number of different topics.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the moment to moment chaos of the Idaho Legislature. You can also sign up to receive our weekly legislative updates so you never miss a beat, or a tie …