Idahoans for Public Lands is a coalition of organizations and people from across Idaho who believe our national forests and public lands are treasures that belong to all Idahoans and all Americans. We represent sportsmen, outdoor recreationists, conservationists and all Idahoans who value the protection of our state’s public lands.
We were disappointed to see a front-page story about Ammon Bundy recently. The opinions of Mr. Bundy are distinctly anti-American and do not represent the views of Idahoans. In fact, the vast majority of Idahoans support and cherish our public lands, and the real movement that has grown out of Bundy’s actions is a decidedly bipartisan pro-public lands movement.
Need evidence? In 2017 over 3,000 Idahoans rallied at the state Capitol in support of our public lands, far larger than any anti-public lands gathering (see a recent gathering in Whitefish, Mont., as an example). Elected officials from both sides of the aisle have rejected anti-public lands legislation and supported legislation that increases access to public lands. And polling has shown that 80 percent of Idahoans think that our public lands and outdoor recreation give us an economic advantage over other parts of the country.
Much of the Bundy rhetoric revolves around stripping Americans of their public lands. But Idahoans consistently rank protecting access to Idaho’s public lands as one of the most important issues in the state. Over 90 percent of Idahoans visited public lands managed by U.S. agencies at least once in 2017, and over half visited more than five times. Idahoans are more active and more connected to their lands than the vast majority of Americans, and public land access is critical. Idahoans camp, fish, hike and hunt on our public lands, and believe these special places belong to all Americans, not just Idahoans and not just to a small group of agitators who have used armed revolt as a way to get their message across.
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The Bundys are not Western folk heroes and do not represent the views of Idahoans, Westerners or Americans. The real story here is how much Idahoans support their public lands, how bipartisan support for public lands truly is, and how vocal Idahoans have been in displaying that support. Our public lands are part of our birthright, and Idahoans will always fight to make sure that our values are protected for all Idahoans, not just a noisy few.
Janice Inghram is a lifelong resident of Idaho County working to protect and preserve public lands.