Idahoans love the wide-open spaces of the state’s high desert lands and are poorly served by Gov. Butch Otter’s rhetoric attacking the Bureau of Land Management’s wild lands policy.
While poking the feds is always popular in some Idaho circles, the governor’s recent statements run counter to the interests of thousands of Idaho hunters, hikers and river runners who use this land and care deeply about it.
From rock quarries to transmission corridors, much of Idaho’s BLM land has been developed for industrial commercial uses and is no longer pristine. Fortunately, there are still hidden canyons, wild rivers and pristine plateaus scattered across Idaho. They are home to bighorn sheep, sage grouse and countless other fish and wildlife species. These unique places are part of what makes Idaho, Idaho and they belong to all of us.
In 1976, Congress directed the BLM to maintain an inventory of these special lands. This is simple bookkeeping. Public agencies are supposed to know how much of a resource they have, whether it is minerals, timber, rangeland or wild country. Both Democrat and Republican presidents have upheld this mandate to recognize these places until Congress can consider permanent protections.
But in 2003, the Bush administration reached a backroom, out-of-court settlement with the state of Utah which prevented the BLM from formally identifying any remaining wild places in Utah and left the national policy in limbo.