Public Lands: My View

An issue of interest in Idaho and the West is the transfer of federal lands to the states. Opponents of state management paint this issue with a broad brush, accusing those who do not support status quo federal management of not supporting preservation of public lands. That argument is shallow, false and designed to mislead. My family and I enjoy public lands as much as anyone for backpacking, camping, fishing and hunting; however, use of federal lands should not be restricted solely to recreation. For example, the once thriving lumber industry decimated by federal policies and environmental lawsuits, has been replaced with increasing tax payer expenditures to fight fires.

To make it clear: I do not support sale of federal lands, except for occasions to trade or sell to acquire more publicly beneficial lands. I also do not believe Idaho legally has the right to compel transfer of federal lands. I do not support lawsuits based upon that claim.

I do support collaborative management and pilot projects to place some lands under state management. Additionally, Idaho does not receive tax revenue for the 62% of lands under federal control in Idaho. Other non-western states enjoy a much larger tax base to fund schools and other services because most property is under private control which generates tax revenue. Federal PILT payments (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) are a poor substitute, and are fiscally and politically unstable. Better timber management would increase state revenue and reduce fire risks. Judicious access to mineral resources would economically benefit Idaho. I support measures to move discussion forward between the state and the federal government to make the state a true partner in resource management. SB 1338 (2016) authorizing declaration of catastrophic public nuisances on federal lands was a measure to draw attention to the need for better timber management. While cooperative collaboration is always the preference, until that happens, I applaud the recently announced timber auction in a burned out area of the Nez Perce - Clearwater Forest. This is a cooperative effort between the state and federal government under the 2014 enacted Good Neighbor Authority. That is movement in the right direction. I will continue to consider other steps to keep focus on the issue.