We often hear complaints from sportsmen’s groups that those who advocate for true multiple-use management of federal lands, or the transfer of federal lands to Idaho, are tools of special interests or out-of-state interests.
I find that argument interesting, because, to my way of thinking, it is easier to make the case that Idahoans could manage land without penetration from national special interests here in Idaho. Instead, environmentalists suggest public lands be managed from the “special interest free zone” of Washington DC.
I have personally faced off against sportsmen and conservation groups at the State Capitol when I pressed the case for better federal land management to reduce fire risks. The constant refrain I heard: The federal government must retain land ownership, management, and control, otherwise special interests would swoop down on the Capitol and the lands would be pillaged or sold to private interests.
The testimony from sportsmen is often compelling because legislators believe that people who hunt and fish represent the bedrock of Idaho. Frequently they do. However, there is a distinction between individual sportsmen and some sportsmen’s advocacy groups.
How so? Well, it boils down to money and where the money comes from. Rep. Beyeler, District 8, is a rancher from Leadore. But, guess what, the good representative gets campaign support from Sportsman for Idaho, which has the same post office box as Conservation Voters for Idaho Action Fund – which is tied to the Idaho Conservation League. The ICL is a consistent nemesis for those who want to change the status quo as concerns federal land management.
Another beneficiary of such financial support is Doug Ricks, who is challenging Rep. Ron Nate in District 34.
So, why are big-money environmental groups interested in a Republican primary? Why would they go so far as to funnel funds through a so-called sportsmen group?
My view is the incumbent Rep. Beyeler, District 8, and the challenger Doug Ricks, District 34, both represent safer bets for the environmentalists.
Rep. Beyeler, when he unseated Lenore Barrett, and Doug Ricks, in attempting to unseat Rep. Ron Nate, offer the establishment the same thing: Republicans who are less likely to challenge the status quo on federal land management, less likely to push back on federal agencies and bureaucrats, and less likely to resist federal blandishments.
Though the environmental movement operates all over the west, it has a huge power base in Washington, D.C. That base requires maintaining federal control of public lands and orchestrating decisions from Washington, D.C. -- a region known for being devoid of special interest control.