Letters From the West

Idaho County commissioner says public land closure reason for state takeover

A campground is closed off in North Idaho because of the government shutdown. (Photo courtesy Skip Brandt)

A campground is closed off in North Idaho because of the government shutdown. (Photo courtesy Skip Brandt)

It’s hunting season. Roger Phillips showed all of us why we should be out fishing this fall.

Idahoans love to get out on their public lands. Only this fall some of them are closed because Congress couldn’t pass a funding bill.

That’s leaving many federal public servants without jobs. They aren’t getting a pay check.

Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt isn’t pointing fingers at Democrats or Republicans in Washington for the fact that National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management campgrounds, boat ramps, visitor centers and other developed recreation sites, national forest developed areas and all national parks are closed.

“Federal employees have decided to make their furloughs as painful as possible for the public,” Brandt wrote in an e-mail.

A sign explains the closure of a Bureau of Land Management Recreation site in North-central Idaho because of the federal government shutdown.

A sign explains the closure of a Bureau of Land Management Recreation site in North-central Idaho because of the federal government shutdown.

“So apparently the ‘Federal’ lands/ facilities are not “true public” lands/ property after all, but rather are the bureaucracy’s property,” Brandt wrote in a e-mail. “Thus if the bureaucrats/ Federal employees do not have a pay check the properties are off limits to the ‘subjects’”

Brandt has a solution: “It is time that the Federal lands become managed/ accountable State lands.”

Brandt is one of the supporters of a resolution that was approved by the Idaho Legislature earlier this year demanding the federal government hand over all of the more than 32 million acres of federally owned public land in Idaho to the state.  Critics question the legal theory the resolution is based on and say the state would suffer economically unless it sold all of the land, which lawmakers say they don’t want to do.

I post two pictures he included to make his point.

“So the next question; How long until ‘they’ put up their signs on all Federally managed lands?” Brandt asked.

Don’t ask people in Washington, Brandt implies. Ask the local forester, range manager or park superintendent, if they aren’t on furlough.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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Posted in Letters from the West