The western United States is known for its vast acreage of forests and public land. Public land that gives everyone the opportunity to explore, enjoy, and appreciate the beauty that pure nature offers. It allows access to recreation activities like hunting, fishing, and many more. Some people love the thought of having access to lands like this, others seem to think it is a waste of space and could be used to make some extra money. Idaho is not exempt from people who feel this way about its public lands. Sixty two percent of Idaho is public land and it should stay that way. This reintroduced House Concurrent Resolution puts Idaho's public lands in danger yet again.
This bill is Co-sponsored by Senators Mark Harris ( District 32), Lori Den Hartog ( District 22 ), and Steve Vick ( District 2 ). The bill also has involvement from Ken Ivory, a now retired Utah politician. He is also a lobbyist promoting American Lands Council, ALC, which is an organization devoted to making federally regulated public lands state regulated. The implications of having state regulated public lands will be discussed later.
This bill, if passed, will give Ken Ivory $250,000 of Idaho taxpayer money to use "his" software of appraising public land values. This software will appraise public lands as if they were developable private lands. This would then allow, hypothetically, Idaho legislators to demand more money, or even extort money, from the federal government or demand that they forfeit the land to the state. This idea of demanding more money from the government for appraised land is due to "Payments in Lieu of Taxes". Basically, Payments in lieu of taxes, or PILT, is the money that the Federal Government pays the State based on the federally regulated public lands that the state has. This is done because land owned by the federal government is usually not subject to taxation by the state or local governments.
There are a few things wrong with this already. The first being that the Idaho Constitution prohibits taxation of federal lands ( Article VII, section 4, and Article XXI, section 19 ). Second being PILT payments are not based on land appraisals. Third, The land is being appraised as developable real estate. I am sure it does not need to be said that not all public land is developable real estate. This false appraisal will make the land seem like it is worth more than it really is. And the fourth being that private land is not taxed at residential rates. If this is passed then private lands can, theoretically, be taxed at residential rates making it very expensive for the land owner.
This is all a bid by Ken Ivory and his organization that he heads, The America Land Council, or ALC, to make federally regulated public lands regulated by the states. Now some might wonder why it would be bad to have state regulated public lands. The initial thought is nice, small government, not a lot of regulation from the feds, and allows the state to profit off of it. As you dig deeper into it though you will find that public lands are better protected and better off being left to the federal government to regulate. The first reason being fighting fires. As fires get worse more of the public lands will be affected. And fighting these out of control blazes costs the government a lot of money. If the states has to regulate the land it is up to the states to fight these fires and have most of the funding for the fight. This can take up a lot of money really quick. And in order to cover the costs the states could put huge areas of public land up for sale.
Another problem of state regulated public land is that it would increase the cost of managing them. Currently it cost the U.S. Taxpayer $4 a year in federal taxes. If the states takes control it will increase that cost for state tax payers especially the in the western states were most of the nations public land is located.
Finally, one of the main problems, for me personally at least, is the decreased access to the lands. The multiple-use mandate on federal lands allows everyone to use the public lands and recreate as they would want. The states do not have the same mandate for access. And most states do not view their lands as a public resource. The states will see the lands as something that they would need to use to make a profit off of because it is viewed as a private asset. Profits can come from logging leases, mining leases, and other destructive practices. If this is the case, your access is not allowed onto the land.
Ken Ivory and the organization ALC have lobbied many times in different states, especially Utah, to make federal public lands state regulated. This is something he usually tries. He asks a state government for money to make a bid for state against the feds. Nothing comes of it and he ends up keeping the money. This seems to be following the same pattern that it has in other states that he has worked with. Idaho does not need this. And does not need to give Ken our taxpayer money to let him swindle us and possibly put Idaho public lands in danger.
Now I know some people get comfortable and say, "Hey, it is okay because our public lands are protected by the state's constitution". Idaho has a history of illegally selling public land. It lasted from 1890 to 1987 and added up to more than 200,000 acres over that time period. With a history like that it shows that anything is possible despite the fact it was unconstitutional.
Idaho and Idahoans take pride in having the majority of their state be public land. I know it is something I always brag about to other people from different states. It means the state takes having that public land and using it for its people seriously. You do not have to be a hunter or an angler to appreciate the ability to access good hiking, camping, boating, and many other great outdoor recreation activities. Public lands should be fought for like any other of our rights. That is what it is anyway. You have a right to access the public land that you own. And that is what needs to be done against this bill, HCR 008. That is what needs to be given light about this bill. It is a bill proposed by a grifter to make money at the expense of Idaho's taxpayers.
What can be done about this? Contact your state district senators and representatives and let them know what this bill truly is. Idaho Public lands need to be fought for and respected. Do your part and fight for them and show them how much it is appreciated by the people of Idaho.