Idaho Sportsmen Gather to Protest Potential State Takeover of Public Lands

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Sportsmen from across the state came to the Capitol to demonstrate against any effort by Idaho lawmakers that would put public lands under state control. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Sportsmen from across the state came to the Capitol to demonstrate against any effort by Idaho lawmakers that would put public lands under state control.

There has been no move on the part of the Idaho Legislature to take over the state's 34 million acres of public land. No senator or representative has put his or her name to legislation that would take federal land and put it under the control of the state government. But on a sunny Thursday afternoon, sportsmen from across the state gathered on the Capitol steps to send a message to state lawmakers: "Keep Your Hands Off Our Public Lands."

It's a message that approximately 120 recreationists from all corners of the Gem State got behind. Some of them held placards, but most wore large, orange stickers as a show of solidarity with hunters, fishermen, mountain bikers, skiers, snowmobilers and practically anyone else who uses public lands for fun.

"We have come together to say that our public lands are not for sale," former Pocatello Rep. Elmer Martinez told the crowd. 

Martinez emceed the event, during which sportsmen shared specific reasons why they believe lawmakers should back away from a state takeover of federal lands. For instance, individual states are widely held to not have the resources needed to manage public lands, and some have speculated that states could compensate for the added financial burden by selling or leasing property and decreasing public access for recreation and other activities. Ryan Callahan, marketing director of First Light, said that would put a crimp in many Idahoans' ways of life. 

"Public land is intrinsic to our lifestyle," he said. 

Others said that the sale or lease of these lands would benefit the corporate interests and the wealthy, rather than the public. 

"Imagine the people who would buy up our public lands," said Greg McReynolds, a representative of Trout Unlimited.

Pat Kilroy, a sportsman and veteran, told the crowd that many have fought and died for access to public land, and that they're not meant for private consumption; instead, they're part of a national heritage and should be accessible to all. For him, a state takeover would be unnecessary—if anything, it would be a harmful political gesture.

"I'm not sure we've identified a problem that needs a solution," he said.