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Report: Idaho Has Sold 1.7 Million Acres to Private Interests Since Statehood

A new report shows the state has sold off 1.7 million acres of land over the past century, many for industrial uses that cut off public access, such as this gravel pit near Boise. (Brad Brooks, The Wilderness Society)
A new report shows the state has sold off 1.7 million acres of land over the past century, many for industrial uses that cut off public access, such as this gravel pit near Boise. (Brad Brooks, The Wilderness Society)
May 4, 2016

BOISE, Idaho - In its history, the state of Idaho has sold 1.7 million acres of land to private interests, according to an analysis of land sale records by The Wilderness Society.

In a report released today called "Sold! Idaho lands - and recreation access - lost to the highest bidder," the society found that once-public lands the size of the Sawtooth National Forest have been privatized over the past century.

Brad Brooks, the Wilderness Society's deputy regional director for Idaho, said the new owners often have eliminated all public access for fishing, hunting, rafting, hiking and snowmobiling.

"A couple of the parcels that we found in our research have been turned into gravel mines, plowed into agricultural production, turned into strip malls, and even large open-pit mines in the northern part of the state," he said.

The state Legislature has passed several bills exploring the idea of transferring federal public lands to state control. Supporters have said the state would do a better job than the federal government of managing the land and insist that public access would not be limited. But sportsman Jerry Bullock of Blackfoot said the state would likely follow its constitutional mandate to maximize profits from the land - and sell it off rather than preserve it.

"The record of the state -- not just in land management but their overall approach to wildlife and to conservation -- is deplorable," he said. "They seem to go out of their way to do things that are contradictory to good wildlife science."

The report found that some of the private interests that have purchased land from the state of Idaho include Simplot Corp., Potlatch and Boise-Cascade, as well as cattle companies, law firms and Blue Lakes Country Club in Twin Falls.

The report is online at wilderness.org.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - ID