Recently the Idaho Senate passed SB 1338, a bill that, if enacted, will bring disarray to land management across our state. An earlier version, drafted by out-of-state lobbyists and special interests, had to be withdrawn due to gross inaccuracies. While this version has corrected spelling errors and reduced inaccuracies about our state, it is still wrong for Idaho.
Simply put, this bill will allow a county sheriff or commissioner the ability to overrule loggers, miners, ranchers, sportsmen and others who have worked tirelessly to bring local, grassroots, science-based management to our forests by using personal beliefs only. The exact language from this misguided legislation states that “any other factor that the chief executive officer of a county or a county sheriff considers to be relevant” may be used to declare a public nuisance.
Think about this for a moment: A sheriff or commissioner, who is not trained in land management or its issues, who doesn’t understand what it takes to create collaboration for the purpose of managing our land, can, with a tip of their hat, decide that all of our cooperative work has created a public hazard and then can demand abatement.
I respect my county sheriff — in fact I voted for him — but I voted for him to protect and assist the citizens and to enforce societal laws. I didn’t vote for him to guess about what management is needed on our forest. This is not a burden I want to place on my county sheriff, who is a professional in law enforcement but not in land management. In addition, this bill also negatively impacts the position of county sheriff by opening the door of influence by others, to do their bidding, in order for the sheriff to protect their own career. I can say the same for my commissioner.
Idahoans are proud of our lands. We work them, fish, hunt, pack and recreate on them. We also have some of the highest quality lands found anywhere in our great nation. This quality of opportunity is what draws visitors from around the country to come visit Idaho, leaving behind millions of dollars and supporting our economy. Now we have a few elite out-of-state interests trying to press their dislike of our processes on us, potentially hurting what we have worked so hard to protect, preserve and manage.
They are attempting to tell Idahoans we are wrong and, in the process, help push the balance of power toward selling off our lands. They want to lock us out and we can’t stand for that. Public lands are a legacy, they are Idaho’s legacy. These lands belong to each and every one of us and that’s why we work as a community to help improve the lands around us. This bill will risk all that Idaho is and wants to be.
Ed Northen is a retired fire captain/paramedic, an outdoor enthusiast and lover of our public lands. He resides in Hailey.