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How Better Idaho misconstrues the public land debate

How Better Idaho misconstrues the public land debate

Dustin Hurst
January 1, 1970
Dustin Hurst
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January 1, 1970

Better Idaho and its Executive Director, Derek Farr, are a self-described, “communications shop for progressive ideas.” Yes, of course that means that they support Medicaid expansion and “better” (more expensive) public schools – no surprise here.

A couple of days ago Derek Farr posted a blog titled, “Idaho the Freedom magnet,” in response to an article I wrote relating that Idaho is attracting new residents who are fleeing the states that have adopted the policies that “Better Idaho” supports – more government spending and control.

In his piece, Mr. Farr stated that he agreed with part of my thesis that people do see Idaho as a beacon for freedom, but the principle rationale was access to public lands and not because of other policies like the ability to home school children or due to the relatively few gun control laws here. Let’s assume that Mr. Farr is partially correct and access to public lands is an important “freedom” to many new residents. Mr. Farr then goes on to state that, “Of course, some politicians don’t appreciate those freedoms. They want our public lands to be sold, transferred, or privatized.”

In a nutshell, what Derek Farr and many of those in the environmental community are really doing are engaging in a disinformation campaign that actually goes against the notion of freedom and access. The movement to transfer federally owned lands to the state of Idaho is about moving control of public lands from Washington to Idaho – local control of public lands vs. control from Washington DC. Many people don’t realize that the state of Idaho owns about 2.5 million acres already. Mixing the transfer of lands with selling or privatizing the lands is a red herring designed to obscure the lousy federal land management practices.  Access and use on federally owned lands is already being restricted with trail closures and poor overall stewardship – with catastrophic fires as one result. Like Mr. Farr I too love Idaho’s backcountry but I prefer not hike or hunt in a sooty, charred, forest.

The issue of transfer of federal lands to Idaho is about guaranteeing access and use through better management of our resources here in Idaho. In the fact the American Lands Council, a leader in making the case for the transfer of public lands, states as it’s organizing principle that we, “retain public ownership of public lands.” The progressive and environmental community are not about freedom, they are about maintaining federal control and oversight of many things in Idaho and see Idaho as an administrative unit of the federal government. That is why Medicaid expansion, federal oversight of child support payments, and yes federal control of public lands are all a seamless garment – Idahoans can’t be trusted to manage their own affairs or control their own public lands.

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