Two constitutional amendments that would give Idaho land managers more flexibility in leasing, selling, and buying state lands received approval from a Senate committee Monday. If the Legislature approves both changes by the end of their session, Idahoans will vote on them in November.
The changes would allow the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) to act more like a prudent investor when leasing and selling lands and could lead to the state making more money on the 2.6 million acres of state lands in Idaho. That money goes primarily to public schools and universities, which are seeing funding decreases in the current budget. Land managers would be able to sell larger plots of state land, perhaps to commercial developers. The state also wouldn’t need to use public, in-person auctions to lease lands for logging, grazing, or other purposes. IDL director George Bacon said using sealed bid auctions, like the state uses for some construction contracts, could lead to more money for using lands.
“There were certain aspects of the constitution that were not in keeping with modern business practices,” said Kathy Opp, IDL deputy director. She told senators that the state could have made 30 percent more money on some state properties that could have been used for commercial purposes. The amendments wouldn’t change IDL’s priority of maximizing the money generated for schools and other beneficiaries of state lands.