Can Idaho manage public lands better than the feds? Idaho Statesman and Some Whiffs of Domestic Imperialism

Now I am not for land transfer as a solution. I think that there is a middle way, or a variety of middle ways, to be tested that could help us deal with the concerns of local people and officials. But first we have to be willing to listen, and not enemize or partisanize them, or simply tell them that their concerns are not valid. Basically the US owns the land and it can do what it wants, buffeted by alternating sets of national interests.

Here is the link.
But here is an interesting paragraph:

Haunold, whose business sells skis, bikes and other outdoor equipment, said nothing in the discussion addresses his industry, whose $6.3 billion in consumer spending generates 77,000 jobs annually, according to a new report by the national Outdoor Industry Association.
According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the parent agency of the U.S. Forest Service, more than 7 million people visit Idaho’s 20 million acres of national forests annually, spending more than $400 million.
A 2011 Interior Department report concluded that recreation accounts for six times more jobs than grazing or timber, and three times more than energy and minerals on the 12 million acres in Idaho managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Even though much of the visitation hits rural communities, much of the spending is done in Idaho’s urban areas, so the rural lawmakers backing the bill don’t necessarily see the economic benefits of recreation in their districts. What they do see are reduced timber harvests and restrictions on grazing.
That’s why Haunold is skeptical when lawmakers say they won’t sell off the land if they can win a lawsuit upholding their plan and force Congress to turn it over – which Haunold thinks is a distinct long shot.
“As soon as they get their hands on it, they are going to sell off what they think is not valuable,” he said. “They’re going to fail, but along the way they will waste my taxpayer dollars.”

I italicized the part that interested me. First, I ‘d like to see the breakdown of where the jobs are if articulated in the studies he refers to.

But I hadn’t heard before that the “rural communities don’t necessarily see the economic benefits”. I wonder if that’s true? If it is, perhaps OIA would support a “Payments to Counties-like” transfer based on a percentage of say, metro sales going to support governments in rural areas? It only makes sense if those uses are up-and-coming, require county services, and don’t pay taxes in the counties.

I am beginning to understand the point of view of some rural legislators. We can’t use the land for what would give local people jobs, but we can to give urban people jobs… because those uses are .. better..

There is a bit of an air of domestic imperialism here. I didn’t focus on that in this piece but here’s also a quote from Swearingen’s piece on collaboration that we discussed here:

The idea of collaborative process has had its skeptics ever since it got a foothold in the 1990s, as people looked for ways through the polarization of the timber wars. The basic idea was to get traditional foes like loggers and wilderness advocates into the same room to hammer out proposals that might spare the Forest Service some costly litigation. But critics complain that these local, collaborative groups shift power from urban conservation interests to a rural minority.

Maybe that’s what all the unrest is really all about. Maybe we should discuss the power issues directly. What would it take to give local communities their rightful place in determining land uses? What is the local communities rightful place? Are some communities simply colonies of national interests and groups, because they happen to have a large federal land component, and they should simply resign themselves to the fact that outsiders know more than they about what is best?

8 thoughts on “Can Idaho manage public lands better than the feds? Idaho Statesman and Some Whiffs of Domestic Imperialism”

  1. “What would it take to give local communities their rightful place in determining land uses? What is the local communities rightful place?” Great questions whose answers could solve a lot of problems. The September, 2011 edition of the Journal of Forestry contained a Commentary written by me that offered some answers. A copy of that article appears in my web-page It proposes the greatly expanded use of N.F. Resource Advisory Committees (RAC). Here’s an encapsulation of the proposal as stated in the Commentary. —

    “In effect, the RAC would serve as the forest’s Board of Directors,representing the shareholders (the public) and providing guidance and direction to the CEO (the forest supervisor).”

    I don’t believe that the Forest Service would be too enthusiastic about sharing power with local folks, but I’d be interested in what others might think.

  2. Leading up to the last election, then Utah Deputy Attorney General John Swallow sent out a flier stating that he would “work to strengthen the sovereignty of our great state and protect the liberty and freedoms of Utahns”. The word “sovereignty” caught my attention (as I didn’t know it was threatened) and I dug in a little deeper to find out what his intentions were.

    I visited his website where I became more concerned after reading an article Swallow proudly provided a link to. The article stated that “under one measure, the federal government has until Feb. 15, 2013 — after the next U.S. presidential election and possible administrative change — to communicate its intentions to Utah’s governor, House speaker and Senate president to either sell its lands in Utah or cede title”.

    The act Swallow was referring to was Rob Bishop’s H.R. 2852-The Action Plan for Public Lands & Education (APPLE) Act. This act would have FORCED the federal government to SELL OFF 5% of public lands (under the guise of funding education) so the state could then collect taxes on said properties.

    The danger was that Rob’s bill would have allowed THE STATE TO CHOOSE THE LANDS BEING SOLD OFF. The most profitable lands would undoubtably be the “crown jewels” of the FS lands and these would undoubtably be the first the State would have forced the Feds to sell off as they offered maximum revenue.

    Had Mitt Romney won the election, I have no doubt that this act would have passed (but I’m also pretty sure it wouldn’t have stood up to legal challenges).

    This new “Sagebrush Rebellion” is alive and well here in the Utah. To say our legislature is predominantly GOP would be a gross understatement as we essentially function under a one party system and I suspect the same is probably true in Idaho. Here in Utah the Governor, the Attorney General, and our legislature all working together trying to wrest control of public lands in the state away from the federal government with the goal of selling, not managing, those lands.

    Make no mistake, if federal lands are turned over to the States, then you should expect the most valuable of these lands to be immediately sold off to the highest bidder and the recreational user will be the ultimate loser…

  3. Here’s the lead sentence in my webpage, written 2 years ago on this very subject. It’s entitled “Utah vs. the Feds”

    “Failure to manage the land and its resources has political as well as environmental, economic and social impacts. Here’s what is happening in one western state. Is this a harbinger of things to come in the absence of major change in the management of Federal land?”

    In Utah The U.S. Forest Service harvests 4% of the gross annual growth on its non-reserved timberlands.. Eighty nine (89%) percent dies. Do you want to retain them as your timberland manager?

    • Who would I rather have as my timberland manager? I’d much rather have the Feds managing our “forests” (I’m not too fond of the term timberland) than the State of Utah. Give the control of the public lands over to the state and they’ll sell or lease these same lands to private interests and we’ll all lose recreational access. This isn’t just speculation, it been spelled out in no uncertain term to Utah’s citizens; the state doesn’t feel it has the funds to manage public lands. In 2002 the state legislature passed a law mandating the closure of many of our state parks citing this as the reason.

      More recently, the state had been complaining that even though it already gutted most funding for park management, it was still planning even more budgetary cuts ($12.2 million in fiscal year 2010 to a proposed $3.9 million): Utah state parks on verge of closure

      Do you really think Utah plans to “manage” these lands if they obtain them? They have already stated their intent to sell…

  4. People often ignore or discount the diverse impacts from the diverse forms of human recreation. Income from recreating can be fleeting, as wildfires have been known to drive away visitors. Wildfire smoke isn’t good for tourism, as well (even if it is “natural”). I don’t think this is a good way to push for better Federal land management but, we’ll see if it is effective, I guess. I’m still hoping for some middle ground and public education.

  5. Lemme see, let’s destroy the timber industry…and then claim that Rec is six times more valuable. Look, did rec? suffer during the go-go years of logging? I think not…it boomed. Show me one person who “refused to go there cause he saw some logging.” I’m always suspicious of Rec claims. A few years ago something was circulating that “bird watching” was the fastest growing sport on national forests. Who are the Rec people? 2% use wilderness…that can’t be six time what logging used to be. Like 40% is “driving for pleasure”…always like that one. Camping is always popular…but not that huge…and declining. My favorite is when people polled say we do “hiking”…which is a pretty big number. Hike where and how much? Me sense that when polled, people like to say “we like hiking” because it makes them feel healthy and “with it”…whether they do it or not is another question. I’ve drove a lot of the gravel roads on a lot of forests…and frankly for every “suburu outback” parked at a trailhead…I see a dozen four wheelers and the F-350’s with trailers that pull them.

    Look, Rec and logging can co-exist…and did. It’s not an “either Or” thing.

    • It seemed that the most popular recreational activity on the southern California Forests was “plinking”, or target shooting (Forest Service signs specifically ban “plinking” or shooting in some areas, via their signage). You would be amazed at what people take out in the boonies to shoot at. I even saw a hockey puck and a golf ball with bullet holes in them.

      Illegal OHV use near urban centers is exploding and there is little in the way of control. It is simply too dangerous to try and corral these expert riders, who seem to like a challenge from time to time. Abandoning wildfires is sometimes a form of “recreation” for larger populations of “arsonists”. Simply put, the more humans we have on the land, the more serious and numerous their impacts become. Excluding human impacts and/or human needs from forest planning is woefully shortsighted, on public lands.

  6. Agreed that federal timberland (I like that term) should not be sold, ceded or otherwise given over to state custody, although here in Florida the state DOF does a great job of land management. However, the record (and conditions on the ground,)shows that the feds are doing an terrible job of managing the timber resource. The answer is a middle ground called Trust Management for those selected lands whose highest and best use is the production of timber. If anyone has a better solution, let’s hear it.


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