Idaho sportsmen are working to defeat a bill that would direct state agencies to decide which public lands to get rid of. Image: IWF
BOISE, Idaho – Two sportsmen’s groups and a landowner are taking aim at a bill that not only would force Idaho state agencies to decide which public lands to get rid of but would prevent willing landowners from selling property to public agencies.
The Idaho Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and landowner Erik Cetovick said Monday that Senate Bill 1065 in the Idaho Legislature could end up locking the public out of lands they have hunted and fished for generations. The bill also tips lawmakers’ hand in showing that the goal of taking over public lands is to sell them to private parties, dismantling Idahoans’ public-lands heritage, they added.
"For years now, our politicians have said that the transfer of public lands to the state is about better management. Well, now we have them flat out advising all state agencies to prioritize their land parcels for sale to private ownership any lands that might not be fulfilling a 'public purpose,’” said Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “Who decides public purpose? The same legislators who are advocating for a public lands takeover by the state to sell to the highest bidder?"
“This bill showed their hand. No longer can they bluff the public that the public lands takeover isn't about selling your hunting, fishing, and camping grounds now that they have specifically advised Idaho agencies to get ready to do just that," Brooks added.
The legislation would also give county commissioners say over whether private landowners could sell their property to the local, state or federal government, based on the objective of no net loss of private property in the state.
"There are some other glaring problems with the bill," said Michael Gibson, Idaho Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. "Aside from the fact that the bill violates the Idaho constitution, it would prevent a landowner from selling his land to a government body, like a school district or Idaho Fish and Game, and put the selling authority in the hands of elected county commissioners. If a landowner wants to improve fishing access by selling an easement, he or she should have that right."
Eric Cetovick, whose family owns property in forested rural Idaho, worries about the future of his land if Senate Bill 1065 bill becomes law.
"If I want to keep my property a working landscape, open to the public, and quality habitat, I could sell to any number of local, state, or federal agencies and preserve the land but still retain my title of it. With this bill, that land could be sold in the future,” Cetovick said. “This could destroy the access all sportsmen in Idaho enjoy. Without groups like the Idaho Wildlife Federation and TU, who will uphold sportsmen values?"