I am writing to express my views on HCR 21 and HCR 22, passed last spring by the Idaho Legislature. The first resolution appoints a study committee to ascertain the process for the state to acquire title to and control of public lands now and since statehood controlled by the federal government. The second demands that the federal government immediately transfer title to all public lands in Idaho to the state.
Never mind the inconsistent timing of them or their probable unconstitutionality, I am against both of the resolutions for personal reasons. All of my life, I have been fond and taken advantage of our national parks and other public lands, to climb their mountains, hike their trails and fish their rivers. I even maintained their trails and served as a fire lookout for the Forest Service one summer as a young man.
My wife and I have been coming to south-central Idaho most of our lives, to ski, hike, fish and enjoy river rafting on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. We have elected to retire in the Wood River Valley and 17 years ago built a house in a valley on a lot bounded on two sides by BLM-managed land. Each year, we enjoy seeing herds of elk and deer, the occasional gray wolf, foxes, coyotes and many species of birds in or above our yard, which is planted in native grasses, flowers and sage. There is access to all of this BLM property, even that near our home, for skiers, hikers and sheepherders who pass by on the hill above us each early summer.
But whether, like my wife and I, one lives in or on the edge of wilderness, it is important to all of us. As Wallace Stegner so brilliantly ended his 1960s Wilderness Letter: “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”
One of the things the federal government does well is protect and preserve the parks and wilderness for all of us. All of this property in Idaho is a treasure and shouldn’t be acquired by the state, potentially to be sold off to the highest bidder, today, tomorrow or in a century.