Public Lands

An interim committee of Idaho lawmakers tasked with determining if Idaho endowment lands are being managed properly to generate revenue is scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday.

Republican Rep. John Vander Woude of Nampa is co-chairman of the committee.

He tells the Lewiston Tribune that the entire endowment of land and investments is worth more than $3 billion but only generates about $50 million in annual payouts to public schools, universities and other trust beneficiaries.

Greg Dusic / U.S. Forest Service

Fifty years ago, the Wilderness Act was signed into law, setting aside large areas of land in their natural state. Today, almost 110 million acres have been designated as wilderness by the U.S. Congress.

Idaho is celebrating the milestone with a lecture series in the shadow of the Sawtooth Wilderness Area, sandwiched between Atlanta and Stanley.

The Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee has hired outside legal counsel even though the state attorney general's office has questioned the legality of Idaho being able to take control of public lands away from the government.

The committee is relying on the Legislature's Legal Defense Fund to cover the private attorney's costs. So far, Idaho has paid the attorney nearly $26,000.

Some Western Republican officials say their states are missing out on revenues and opportunities to prevent wildfires because they don't have enough control over public lands.

The group on Friday included U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop and state lawmakers from Montana, Nevada and Utah.

The gathering follows an announcement last week from another group of Western officials who said it's time they manage federal lands rich in natural resources.

But critics are questioning where states will find resources to manage vast ranges.

TheJesse / Flickr Creative Commons

Environmentalists and mountain bikers have reached agreement on a proposal for protecting the Boulder-White Clouds as a national monument.

The Idaho Statesman reported Tuesday that the agreement creates zones to maintain wilderness characteristics in some areas, while continuing mountain bike access to the popular area north of Sun Valley.

Elk Complex, wildfire
Ashley Smith / Times-News

The Bureau of Land Management has closed about 54,000 acres northeast of Mountain Home in southern Idaho to all entry until April 30 in an effort to rehabilitate areas scorched by two wildfires.

The agency tells the Idaho Statesman that the area will also be closed year-round to motorized use for up to three years.

Officials say the closures are needed to protect key sage grouse habitat and crucial winter habitat for mule deer and elk.

TheJesse / Flickr Creative Commons

Blaine County commissioners in central Idaho have agreed to draft a resolution describing what they'd like to see in a presidential proclamation designating a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument.

Commissioners say they want to take additional comments from the public before drafting the resolution.

The Boulder-White Clouds is a 500,000 acre roadless area in east-central Idaho. Parts of those lands have been considered before for either monument or protected wilderness status.

Sawtooth, lands, forest
The Knowles Gallery / Flickr Creative Commons

Three federal agencies spent $392 million in 2012 to manage 32 million acres of Idaho public land, according to a report illustrating costs Idaho would face by assuming oversight of a substantial swath of the territory.

The Idaho Statesman reports the report was requested by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

State lawmakers are discussing a proposal to take over 16.4 million acres of federal land.

Trees, Forests
Boise State Public Radio

A group of Idaho lawmakers gathers tomorrow at the Statehouse to begin weighing whether the federal government should transfer public lands to the state to manage.  The all-day meeting will include presentations from Boise National Forest Supervisor Cecilia Seesholtz, Deputy Attorney General Steve Strack and State Forester David Groeschl. He's with the Idaho Department of lands.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Yesterday marked the 200th speech given at the Idaho Environmental Forum in Boise. The non-partisan association has been around since 1989, when its first speaker was Governor Cecil Andrus. To celebrate this anniversary, the association invited their inaugural speaker back for an encore.

Speaking in front of a rapt audience in downtown Boise, Andrus started by giving a bit of a history lesson on environmental policy. He went back and forth between being passionate and light-hearted in his remarks.

Community Conversation: Idaho's Public Lands

Apr 26, 2013
Courtesy of the Idaho Statesman

More than half of Idaho’s land is considered public. These are lands that are managed by federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.  We ride horses, hike, camp and play on these lands. It’s part of what makes Idaho a great place to live.

EarthFix

For some, public land in the west is a place to camp and recreate. For all of us, these lands are a source of water and the air we breath. That’s especially true in Idaho - where more than half of the land is federally owned and managed.  Now, some states like Idaho and Oregon want to take over the management of these federal lands.

Sadie Babits / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho is following other western states including Utah that have taken on the issue of transferring federal lands to state control.  Utah’s governor last year signed off on a measure supporting this. Now Idaho lawmakers have given the green light on a resolution to do the same.  

Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway Tuesday reminded his colleagues this is a resolution that doesn’t have legally binding teeth. 

Trees, Forests
Boise State Public Radio

The Senate  State Affairs committee approved two resolutions that would seek to transfer public lands from the federal government to the state. Rep. Lawerence Denney (R- Midvale) asked the committee to endorse the resolutions.

Denney cited last year’s forest fire season as a reason for state control.  

Western States' Public Lands Fight Comes To Idaho

Jan 23, 2013
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

A fight between western states and the federal government over control of public lands has surfaced in the Northwest. Last year Utah and Arizona lawmakers passed bills requiring the feds to sign public land over to them. Now Idaho lawmakers are discussing whether a similar bill is right for their state. 

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