Imagine Idaho without public lands.
Imagine the viewpoint at the 8,700ft Galena Summit with a sign that says “Private Property, No Trespassing”.
Imagine that the view of the Sawtooth Mountains as their jagged edges cut into the sky is limited only to people who can pay.
Imagine that the roads that lead to the snow-capped lakes named Alturas, Stanley, Pettit and Redfish are blocked off because they have been sold to private owners who want to keep their cold waters for themselves.
Think of the headwaters of the Salmon River flowing through an estate’s backyard and the banks of the river becoming playgrounds for the super-rich or the well-connected.
For Idahoans who value the state’s public land legacy, this is a nightmare scenario and until recently was only a remote possibility.
However, the heads of state are flirting with the nightmare. Every step of state lawmakers that wrap themselves in grievances about state rights and every decision of a United States Supreme Court that seems to elevate state power and downplay federal power, makes the nightmare more likely to come true. .
Idahoans mistakenly believe that public lands protect themselves because they are wild and undeveloped. We believe that public lands are our birthright. We understand that they belong to everyone, but we own them by proximity.
Idahoans ignored the fact that the state Constitution requires officials to manage state lands to generate the most money. It calls for selling wood, renting the land or selling it.
When the State Land Board realized it could raise more money selling real estate than selling lumber, it increased sales. Now nothing is sacred.
Last month, the council erased the notion that all state property is safe from auction when it announced that Cougar Island, 14 pristine acres surrounded by the crystal clear waters of Lake Payette, would be sold.
Idaho Department of Lands officials called the island an “underperforming asset” because it only generated $32,400 in revenue last year. They estimate it will sell for over $4.8 million and so it was put on the line.
Elected officials from Valley County, where the lake is located, and the resort town of McCall, which is on the south side of the lake, objected. To save it, they would have to buy it.
If the massive sale of the very land that makes Idaho Idaho is to stop, the people of Idaho must change the State Constitution and make it clear to elected officials that they want the lands of the State and Federal are protected.
Otherwise, the precious heritage of public lands will be lost.
Instead of inspiration from rushing waters, encounters with wildlife, and being wrapped in blankets of stars, future Idahoans may be left with only stocks and bonds to replace the priceless.
“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Comments can be addressed to [email protected]