Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brady kicked off the fencing match for the 2006 election on Monday. Flanked by a former Idaho Fish and Game Directors and two longtime department employees--oh yeah, the season of sponsorships has begun--Brady attacked Congressman Butch Otter's support of a bill that would sell 15 percent of both national forest lands and lands controlled by the Department of the Interior.
"Idahoans like their public land jus the way it is," Brady said. "It would never occur to them to sell the places they hunt, fish, view wildlife or go to relax and have fun."
The bill in question would sell the lands to raise funds for disaster relief. It is co-sponsored by 12 other congressional representatives. According to Brady, the amount of land sold would be as large as the combined acreage of Ada, Boise and Custer counties, or all of Idaho north of Moscow. But he and supporters Jerry Conley, Bill Goodnight and Jack Trueblood said these counties wouldn't be the benefactors of the sale. "It's going be the Simplot Co., it's going to be people from out of state," said Conley, who ran Fish and Game for 16 years. "You can guarantee that no trespassing signs will pop up ... We've got a lot to lose by losing these lands."
In an e-mail response to Boise Weekly, Otter replied to Brady's charge by phrasing the sale not in terms of the need for disaster relief, but by saying the objectors have a narrow view of stewardship. "It might ... be worth asking where the criticism was when the federal government sold large portions of the Boise Foothills to the city of Boise," Otter said. "Are such transfers only valid when they are proposed by self-appointed conservationists, and not by those who espouse the broader concept of multiple-use stewardship?"
Brady described the bill as a "fire sale," saying that the plan to dole lands out to private industry "violates Idaho values" and "would restrict our freedom."
And so it begins.