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Research: Idaho Land Sales May Have Violated State Constitution

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017   

BOISE, Idaho – Idaho may have violated the state constitution by selling off large parcels of state land, according to new research by The Wilderness Society and the Idaho Conservation League.

During its first century of statehood from 1890 to the 1980s, there have been 300 violations of the 320-acre size limit for selling state-owned public schools lands, and 160 acres for selling university lands.

John Freemuth, professor of public policy at Boise State University, says this raises concerns that federal land handed over to Idaho would be sold, once the state realized it was too costly to manage it.

"The alternative to deal with the cost would be to sell off as much as possible to put it in the general treasury, but sportsmen - outdoor recreationists of all persuasion, whether they be motorized or not - would feel that access to those lands would suddenly be jeopardized," he explained.

Since statehood, the research found more than 200,000 acres appear to have been sold in violation of the Idaho Constitution's size limits. More than 60 percent of land in Idaho is managed by the federal government.

The Wilderness Society's Deputy Director Brad Brooks says given the chance, history has shown Idaho is ready to sell land off. In the current Idaho Legislature, Senate Bill 1065 would require state agencies to prioritize the privatization of state lands. While there is a movement to transfer federal lands over to the states, Freemuth says it's a concern for many Westerners.

"It'll increase the worry that large, wealthy landowners could get title to more land in Idaho should the state gain control of it," he added. "That has made Westerners nervous for a long time because, in the West, we disagree with a lot of stuff about what ought to go on in those public lands, but we don't disagree that we want access to them."

According to a report from The Wilderness Society last year, Idaho has sold off more than 40 percent of the land granted to it since it became a state.


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