Idaho Sportsmen Rally Against Transfer, Sale of Public Lands

backcountry-hunters-anglersHunters and anglers gather at Idaho Capitol to protest state-based efforts to take control of federal public lands located in Idaho

BOISE, Idaho – Sportsmen and -women from across Idaho are uniting on the steps of the Idaho Capitol this afternoon to protest efforts by members of the Idaho legislature to take control of federally managed public lands located within the state’s borders.

Efforts by the Idaho legislature to transfer to state ownership of up to 34 million acres of federal public lands mirror activities by state lawmakers in some other Western states. These efforts are being strongly opposed by American hunters and anglers, who rely on public lands for access to valuable fish and wildlife habitat and top-quality hunting and fishing.

Currently, legislators are considering a measure so that “modifications to Idaho’s statutes and State Constitution can be made to effectuate these policy goals.” A related proposal would spend a half-million dollars in state funds (plus an additional quarter-million every following year) to actively pursue options for transferring ownership of federal lands in Idaho to the state. At the same time, a recent University of Idaho study indicates that a federal lands transfer could cost Idaho up to $111 million per year.

“This is a bad idea for sportsmen and for Idaho,” said Coby Tigert, Northwest region field manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The cost of managing public lands will stress Idaho’s budget and force it to sell large tracts to private interests. Sportsmen’s access will be lost forever.

“Consider the impact that one bad fire season could have,” continued Tigert, who lives in Pocatello. “A fire year like 2013 could bankrupt Idaho. For folks who enjoy hunting out West – especially chasing animals that need large, open spaces – this should be considered an anti-hunting movement.”

Sportsmen maintain that Idaho cannot shoulder the substantial costs associated with fighting wildfires, maintaining roads and trails, treating noxious weeds and conducting habitat restoration on federal public lands in the state. They stress that the transfer of federal lands to Idaho would result in one likely outcome: the sale of these lands to the highest bidder and the loss of access to sportsmen and other members of the public in perpetuity.

“This issue has been debated since Roosevelt was assailed by the same interests that are currently beating the drum to privatize our public lands,” said Derrick Reeves, Idaho Tri-chair, Idaho Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Our system of public land ownership is the envy of the modern world. This rehashing of an old argument is a short-sighted, morally bankrupt fool’s errand using public funds to benefit a few private individuals for the short term.”

Speakers at the Boise rally, which follows a gathering of New Mexico sportsmen in Santa Fe and precedes similar rallies in Montana and Colorado, represent a range of interests and include Idaho-based sportsmen’s groups, youth sportsmen, veterans who hunt and fish, Idaho-based businesses and a member of the Idaho legislature.

“For decades, the Idaho Wildlife Federation has represented the interests of sportsmen and -women, worked to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and make sure our state’s decision makers do what’s best for wildlife,” said Michael Gibson, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “That’s why we can’t sit quietly by as some of our legislators seriously consider undermining our public lands legacy, which supports fish and wildlife and provides world-class hunting and fishing. IWF is joining with other sportsmen’s organizations to say loudly and clearly, ‘Keep our public lands in public hands.'”

“Future generations of hunters and anglers are counting on us to protect their public lands legacy,” concluded Greg McReynolds, Idaho field coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “Our public lands are not for sale.”

Contact:
Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262,
kmckalip@trcp.org
Coby Tigert, 208-681-8011,
ctigert@trcp.org

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