In response to the AP article by Todd Dvorak Idaho may be next state for lands fight with Feds.
Idahos national forests and public lands are priceless to the people of Idaho and Americans as a whole, said Jonathan Oppenheimer, an activist with The Idaho Conservation League, The lands contribute to our economy and way of life, and every few years some fringe elements have trotted out a tired argument that Idaho should take over these lands.
We feel that this latest push would put some of Idahos most special places at risk and could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars, he said.
Let me see if I understand Jonathan Oppenheimers comments correctly: Public lands are priceless ... contribute to our economy and way of life ... some fringe elements ... could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mr. Oppenheimers language is the typical attempt from the environmental community to marginalize and distort the real arguments being presented from people who are living the nightmare of underfunded education and underfunded local governments.
If public lands are priceless then why does the environmental community continue to support policies that have led to devastating forest fires causing irreparable harm to our wildlife populations, clean air, destruction of watersheds and wasted economic opportunity. In Idaho alone these policies burned 1.7 million acres. In Idaho County, where I am a commissioner, 246,000 acres burned. This represents 1.23 billion board feet of timber burned, which would have had a value of $329 million. Under the old federal promise to pay 25 percent of proceeds to the county for schools and roads, we would have received $92.5 million. These numbers do not even begin to reflect the multiplier effect within the economy generated through the creation of jobs.
This devastation also allowed for the death of over 750,000 animals within the ecosystem. It released 12.8 million tons of green house gases into the atmosphere and is causing sustained damage to the watershed, which is so crucial to every aspect of life.
We could easily reduce the unemployment and our dependency on federal dollars if Idaho began to properly manage our forests to our benefit and the benefit of the environment. Current environmental policy and actions are destroying the west and our lands and the environmental community refuses to change course or even offer constructive dialogue to begin to reverse the havoc their policies have created.
I do not appreciate being referred to as fringe. Our proposal and ideas represent exactly what the environmental community set out to do over 100 years ago preserve our lands while utilizing them to our benefit. Our proposals represent mainstream thought.
Public lands are priceless. They can contribute to our economy and our way of life, but your policies are costing us hundreds of millions of dollars and putting our most treasured assets at risk.
Jim Chmelik, of Cottonwood, is Idaho County commissioner District III.