The myopic Idaho Legislature and clueless governor are propelling Idaho backwards into the 19th century with the horrible “Ag Gag” bill, allowing any and all to pack guns into institutions of higher learning, and refusing to add simple words to protect the legal rights of gay Idaho citizens. How much more social mayhem could possibly be fomented by Idaho’s leaders? Unfortunately, plenty.
Please let me pivot to our precious national public lands. Taking a misguided cue from the delusional Utah legislature and governor demanding state of Utah ownership of 3.3 million federal acres (won’t fly), the Idaho copycats are saying, “Wow, what a cool money-making concept.” Ceding federal lands to the states is unconstitutional and greed-driven. Yet the legislature will keep pushing it. After all, they are on a backwards momentum roll.
Our public lands are our “commons”—our birthright. Our iconic national wilderness system, incomparable wild rivers, wildlife refuges, national parks and multi-use USFS- and BLM-administered lands are the envy of the world. We the people own them. Transferring and/or selling off large chunks to “reduce the national debt” would be environmentally disastrous and economically stupid. Yet this evil notion persists, mostly on the radical far right. Privatization is their mantra. Paul Ryan has offered a budget proposal to sell off millions of acres of public lands, calling them “unneeded.” Mitt Romney flatly stated, “The public lands—what good are they anyway?” It’s mind boggling.
There is a startling pending situation in north Idaho. After five and a half years and two expensive EIS reports (which actually contain information that the exchange is against the public interest), the USFS was unable to cram the horrible “Lochsa Land Exchange” down the throat of the American public. Ninety percent of the hundreds of comments expressed strong opposition. Now, Idaho Sens. Risch and Crapo and Rep. Labrador have taken over the situation and made it worse—more backwards momentum. They demand a “legislative solution.” This conveniently (for their purposes) bypasses the federal courts, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the American public. They have offered no template for statewide public hearings, nor involvement. This is shameful.
This mess stinks. At stake is the takeaway of up to 39,000 acres of prime national forest public land parcels in six north Idaho counties. They would be exchanged away to Western Pacific Timber (WPT) for the already-cut-over Lochsa checkerboard parcels. The public parcels are prime multi-use lands with valuable mature timber, important watersheds and prime recreational opportunities. The checkerboard private lands are remote, already industrialized, and a literal moonscape. WPT stands to reap tens of millions in profit while the “little people” get ripped off. Sound familiar? This is a. brutal, back-stabbing “deal” trampling the public interest.
The USFS, WPT, two devious lobbyists hired by WPT (ex-Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and Mark Roy) and your Idaho politicians have concocted this proposed theft of your public lands. Risch is leading the power push. Write or email him with copies to Crapo and Labrador and tell them resoundingly, “No way!” If they want to do something constructive, they can facilitate a congressional purchase of the checkerboard parcels using the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
For more information, see these sites: friendsoftheclearwater.org, stoptheswap.net and westernlands.org.
The black-hearted privatization zealots are closely following this litmus test. What starts as a dry snow avalanche could quickly metastasize into an ugly statewide mud/debris flow. Please take action and assist our heroic northern neighbors. This offensive rubber chicken richly deserves to be dropped, abandoned—period. Enough is enough.
Scott Phillips lives in Hailey.