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Public Lands and Public Responsibility
By Brian Brooks
THE GOOD. America’s public lands are the
envy of the world. We cast off the European
idea that only royalty deserved access to open
space and traditional uses– that the average
American should share ownership of a vast
pool of natural resources and recreation opportunity. It’s an idea uniquely American that
the populace ought to take the wheel.
a state takeover is the lazy approach that
distracts us from our multiple use goals and
does nothing to solve public lands issues.
I would posit that any public land problems
originate from lack of public involvement.
When we sleep at the wheel the car drifts. It
isn’t the fault of the road. I’ll summon Teddy
Roosevelt’s words (and not for the last time in
We all know the cultural value of public lands. this article) to prove the point, "We have fallen
Most Idahoans use them for fishing and huntheirs to the most glorious heritage a people
ing. Eight out of ten elk are harvested on pub- ever received, and each one must do his part if
lic lands. We camp
we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its
and hike, kayak or
good fortune." IWF is committed to proving
float, climb and bike, that worth. Join us in this great effort!
explore or wander.
The uses go on. In THE UGLY. There is something suspicious
about the folks saying states can “manage the
fact, it’s safe to
assume that most of lands better”. Their arguments are cloaked in
half-truths, knee-jerk deflection tactics, or nonus, if not all, live in Idaho because of the opsensical and nonlinear rhetoric. Below are just
portunities provided by our public lands.
a few points that should at least begin to build
Our public lands also provide jobs, so they
your doubt on their flimsy platform.
have economic value. 77,000 recreation jobs
rely on public lands in Idaho, contributing $6.3
billion in annual income to the state. National
Forests and BLM rangelands provide even
more jobs in the timber, mining, and cattle
industries, among others.
Public lands, more than any state or private
lands, have incredibly high ecological value.
Unfragmented, contiguous landscapes offer
clean watersheds, minimal wildlife disturbance,
and unabbreviated migration corridors vital for
sustaining our last great big game herds. The
headwaters contained within those lands also
1) They never provide plans to the public specsupport premium cold water trout fisheries.
ifying what “better management” means. Better hunting? Probably not. We want specifics.
2) They advocate for agency budget cuts, use
the shortfall to prove “ineffectiveness”. E.g.
cut the USFS budget for silviculture, then
blame the USFS for slow timber permit processing. 3) No codified language protecting
public access. IWF approached Idaho Rep.
Judy Boyle last session regarding her land
transfer bill. We were verbally promised access wouldn't be limited, so we offered an
amendment stating “no net loss of accessible
acreage” to fulfill that promise. She slid the
THE BAD. Public lands provide multitudes paper back across the table. “We just can’t do
of uses and a complex tapestry of interconthat.” Is there any more telling reason why
nected cultural, economic, and ecologic regiving public lands to state legislators is a bad
sources. The protection or extraction of one
idea? 4) No codified language guaranteeing
resource inevitably affects another resource.
public input. Look at this “Multiple Use” of
Compound those issues with regional climate, Idaho state lands draft bill. Do you see where
regional wildlife and sporting opportunity, and
the public is guaranteed a voice in the manregional extractive resource qualities and
agement of our shared resources? Nope?
quantities (board feet, minerals, grazing etc.),
Don’t trust it. 5) There has never been one
and the picture gets murkier.
politician who has penned exactly how Idaho
could afford land management without the sale
So it is no wonder that public land manageof lands. That’s strange, right? If the public will
ment is an incredibly tedious process. Public
agree that state management is indeed better,
lands are a conceptual landscape of Ameri- why not make the information public?
can democracy– we all have to work together
to find consensus. Much like democracy, pub- Many more reasons exist to oppose the public
lic land management must find the razor thin
lands takeover. Ultimately it’s a scam. But,
path that fulfills the “best use” that serves the
we still need to do our part and continually
most people. It’s hard and it takes time, but
work to adapt management of public lands so
ultimately no problem is insurmountable and
everyone has a voice, even wildlife, so redemocracy is better than unilateral authority.
sources are managed wisely. Let’s stop the
finger pointing and get to it.
It’s no secret that public land management
isn’t perfect. Much like W. Churchill’s quote
Teddy Roosevelt stated it best, “Here in the
about democracy, public lands could be the
US we turn our rivers and streams into sewers
worst form of land management, except all
and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we
those other forms… Problems exist its true,
destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds
but what or who is to blame? The manageand mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing
ment agency, or the idea of public lands itself, charming landscapes with hideous advertiseis often vilified by lawmakers advocating for
ments. But at last it looks as if our people were
the transfer idea. Or are these very lawmakawakening."
ers to blame, advocating, often successfully, to
gut federal land agency budgets prohibiting
We urge this awakening. We urge Sportsmen
proper functioning? Sure, it would be easier
to get involved. Stand with IWF to fight for
for those lawmakers to have unilateral control, proactive public land management. Stand up
but this is America. We pull up our sleeves to for our national heritage. —BB
solve a problem, not jump ship. Advocating for
G.S. 104-16 Page 1 § 104-16. State and United States may enter
G.S. 104-16 Page 1 § 104-16. State and United States may enter