Want land use information to plan a hunt? Idaho’s public lands takeover advocates say no.
On March 6th of 2017’s legislative session, our Idaho House of Representatives voted down a bill, HCR020, that would have utilized existing data to create a map to show hunters, anglers, and all recreationists how to access state lands. The map would not only show you accessible state lands, but help you plan your trip by displaying the use and management prescriptions of those lands. For instance, if an area was displaying a recent clear-cut you probably wouldn’t utilize that region for grouse hunting. Pretty simple stuff.
And it would cost the state ZERO dollars to implement. Idaho Department of Lands Director, Tom Schultz, testified that indeed there would be no costs associated with such an easy project since the data and mapping software already exists in the Department. Sounds even more simple!
The bill had bipartisan support even from the House Natural Resource Committee chair Marc Gibbs. Many legislators agreed that the map could actually help prevent trespassing- that such a tool would benefit private property owners as well as folks utilizing the outdoors.
The bill passed committee and went to the House floor and passed 43-26. Great! Then, something very rare happened. The bill was called back for a reconsideration vote in the same day. Another vote was held and 21 legislators flipped from “yes” votes to “no”, and the bill was killed. One can only imagine what secret conversations took place behind closed doors that convinced 21 legislators to flip-flop. The list of legislators and their votes are below. You have to ask yourself- why would our legislators, who champion government transparency, keep state land management from the public, the very beneficiaries of those lands? Why don’t they want us to know how those lands are managed? Why would they kill a bill that would help us get to those lands?
We can make guesses all day, but we can provide you with some quotes from the House floor that day:
Video of the debate, which you can download here, clearly shows our legislators (the ones who voted against HCR20) have an issue with giving sportsmen, and the general public, free information. So, what can we learn from these quotes? The legislators who voted against this completely harmless bill have a very big problem with letting you know how your state lands are being managed and they don’t even want you to know how to access them. The idea that this information “is not in the interest of our Idaho citizens” is preposterous and even insulting
What is the takeaway?
These same legislators who voted against HCR20, who don’t want you to have access to state lands or know how they are being managed, also advocate for a public lands takeover by the state. Consider that our legislature also introduced Senate Bill 1065, which advised state agencies to prioritize land parcels for sale to private ownership. Transfer advocates claim that state control of public lands will result in more transparency and has nothing to do with land sales. Well, they sure do have a lot of explaining to do after this (and every) legislative session. They really have given us a great glimpse into how they want land management to function.
Luckily, IWF, our conservation partners, and HCR20’s sponsor, Representative Mat Erpelding, are working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to produce just such a map which will be available for sportsman use soon.
The Votes – How did your legislator do?