Idaho Wildlife Federation Moves to Protect Public Land Access Rights
Contact: Brian Brooks, Idaho Wildlife Federation Executive Director (208.870.7967)
BOISE – The Idaho Wildlife Federation is drafting legislation that will empower local citizens to go to court to enforce public road and trail easements, following a well-publicized confrontation over a road leading to the Boise National Forest earlier this summer.
IWF Executive Director Brian Brooks says the legal change is necessary to protect outdoor freedoms as traditional land use patterns shift. “The freedom to hunt, fish and enjoy public lands is bedrock for Idaho’s outdoor traditions and our economy,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately, some folks are literally putting up roadblocks to our way of life. Idahoans won’t stand for that.”
In late July, an Idaho camper was confronted by an armed, private security guard while driving on a public Forest Service road that crossed private property near the Boise National Forest in Valley County. That incident was captured on video and “went viral” on social media. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt2ndalulYA&feature=youtu.be.]
Jon Van Buren, a sportsmen who owns land near the incident in Valley County says Idahoans cherish both property rights and their right to access public land.
“The clash at Clear Creek Road illustrates that this problem is real and won’t go away soon. My family and others like it have used this road for generations. I pick huckleberries with my daughter up there. We camp and hunt around there. Access is too precious to risk losing.”
Brooks noted that timber companies have sold off hundreds of thousands of acres of Idaho forests in recent years. Many of these lands were traditionally open for recreation use and are now being closed off by new owners.
“While that is regrettable, it’s worse that some landowners are trying to cut off access on public road and trail easements,” said Brooks. “Under current law, only county prosecutors can decide whether those closures are to be challenged in court. Because county prosecutors often have very full dockets, access rights are too often left behind.”
IWF is currently drafting a change to Idaho’s road access laws that would allow citizens to legally challenge landowners who arbitrarily close access easements. They are currently talking to legislators to sponsor the bill in the 2018 Legislature.
“We aren’t spoiling for a fight, but freedom and access are worth fighting for,” Brooks said.
“Landowners have legal recourse if a person trespasses their property. This law simply gives the public the same power regarding their public lands and roads, empowering Idahoans to stand up for their rights. Once we lose access to our favorite places to hunt and fish, that access is usually lost forever.”
The draft legislation can be viewed below.