Passions run high in a YouTube video showing an argument between a recreationist and a private land security guard in southwest Idaho.
The video was posted July 25 and – at the time this story was published – had been viewed more than 5,000 times. The video confrontation has also reignited a debate over public vs. private lands in Idaho.
The land in question is owned by two Texas brothers and business owners who bought it from timber company Boise Cascade in 2016. Dan and Farris Wilks – who made billions off their oil and gas business – closed the land to the public after purchasing it.
As Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman outlines in his blog, the 172,000 acres tract of land has a long history of recreation. While owned by Boise Cascade the land was open to people to hike, hunt, and ride their ATVs and snowmobiles. The land is also interspersed with federally owned Forest Service land, blurring the line between public and private for years.
But the Wilks brothers have not kept that same arrangement and that’s causing strife in rural Idaho.
“The brothers come from Texas, where there is no public land to speak of and certainly no cultural tradition of public land recreation. When they shut everything down by this spring without public explanation, good maps and a communication strategy, they triggered the backlash they are facing today.
In short, they have gotten bad advice.
To many — to the motorized recreation community in particular — they have become the people who are blocking access, hampering a nearly sacred value shared by most Idahoans.” -- Idaho Statesman
As Barker notes, the brothers also stirred the pot with a proposal in the Idaho Legislature that would strengthen state trespassing laws, though it was never introduced. Now there are efforts between recreationists and conservation groups to counter that effort:
“So now those frustrated with the changes are banding with hunters and conservation groups in seeking legislation that will give them more tools for protecting access. The Idaho Wildlife Federation has drafted a bill that would give the public the right to challenge a road closure where an easement once allowed the public to pass.” -- Idaho Statesman
Whether or not that bill will get very far during the 2018 legislative session is not clear. But one thing is clear: The controversy is not going away anytime soon.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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