Rocky Barker wrote that Idaho has sold 41 percent of state-owned lands since statehood and 100,000 acres since 2000. That’s true, but misleading.
Most of the land was sold decades ago and could not be sold in large blocks under the current State Constitution. Article IX, Section 8, limits land sales to 100 sections per year. The 100,000-plus acres sold during the last 16 years equates to slightly more than 6,000 acres per year, out of about 2.5 million acres of state-owned lands. Idaho is comprised of over 32 million acres of federal land — out of a total of about 53 million acres.
There is a simple solution — amend the state constitution to require all lands transferred from the federal government be managed for multiple use and strictly limit land sales to clean up issues with checkerboard ownership and vested rights. If the sales were limited by the Idaho Constitution to 10 sections per year, it would take at least 5,000 years to privatize just the federal lands.
We must confront the ongoing mismanagement of federal lands. Defending the status quo will not reduce the terrible fire threat we face every summer.
Fred Birnbaum, vice president, Idaho Freedom Foundation