Friday, July 4, 2014

What barks could bite

     Blaine County should give the Rock Creek Ranch one more layer of protection before it spends more than a million dollars to protect it.

     The Blaine County commissioners should guarantee that if the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which will own the ranch, ever moves to dispose of the property or transfer it to a different agency that the ranch would revert to county ownership.

     The idea that IDFG would ever sell critical big-game and upland-bird habitat may seem unthinkable, but it’s not. IDFG doesn’t exercise total control over itself—the Idaho Legislature does.

     The Legislature and the governor periodically try to sacrifice the places Idahoans love to ideological fashion or to a passing need for cold cash.

     In 2003, House Bill 252 would have forced IDFG to sell off properties of equal size before it could acquire new property. North Idaho legislators decried IDFG’s “land business” and insisted it should be stopped—even as urbanization and industrialization were gobbling critical habitat like a starved man eats rice.

     Though the bill faded, the Legislature’s cry to sell off public lands to the highest bidder hasn’t. The volume just varies.

     Can anyone forget the year Gov. Butch Otter wanted to shift the priceless Harriman State Park from management by the Parks and Recreation Department to the Department of Lands, known for selling off precious places? That was stopped only when Harriman heirs said the move would violate the original property agreement and that the park would revert to private ownership.

     Blaine County should beware of the Capitol’s bark and assume it can bite. It must ensure that Rock Creek remains protected forever.

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