As a State Representative of the people, I get daily calls and messages of concern from citizens ranging from potholes in the roads, to school curriculum to healthcare issues and everything in between. All of these issues have one thing in common – they have increasingly become concerns in our lives because we have allowed (either through choice or complacency) our government to manage our problems for us.
Getting to the roots of the majority of the problems I hear comes down to the questions of who made the decision, why did they make it and how can it be changed?
With Idaho hunting season upon us and folks cutting their firewood for the winter, this month’s top issue is no surprise. There is nothing more frustrating than packing up the camper and heading for your favorite hunting spot only to find out the road to access this favorite public land is closed. The question of the month has been, “Why are all the roads closed or gated if it is public land?”
Although I usually receive more complaints about federal land access issues such as locked gates and surveillance cameras, the most recent issues have been related to Idaho Department of Land (IDL)’s endowment lands.
After several closed road complaints just a few weeks ago, I spent some time learning how Idaho manages its endowment lands and the operational system IDL uses. The mission of IDL is “to professionally and prudently manage Idaho’s endowment assets to maximize long-term financial returns to public schools and other trust beneficiaries and to provide professional assistance to the citizens of Idaho to use, protect and sustain their natural resources.” The agency is mainly self-funded with a few tax dollars coming from ATV license sales to be used to mitigate problems and enhance opportunities for recreation. IDL management claims that they want as much of the property assessable to the public with exceptions being for endangered species and water quality issues.
Three phone calls and one visit to an IDL office later, here is what I found out.
The endowment lands are divided into 10 supervisory areas, two of which are in Bonner and Boundary Counties and include the Priest Lake and Pend Oreille Lake Supervisory areas. Here is some useful information:
Priest Lake Area contains one office in Coolin (208-443-2516) run by the Area Manager Mick Schanilec.
Pend Oreille Lake Area contains two offices managed by Tom Fleer, Area Manager. One is in Sandpoint (208-263-5104) and one in Bonners Ferry, (208-267-5577) called the Kootenai Valley Forest Protective.
Each of these two supervisory areas are divided into blocks and assigned a forester to manage the timber and road access in that block. This forester is the person who makes decisions on which roads are opened and which ones are closed based on current management goals. Roads are considered main-secondary or spur roads. Gates and earth berms, tank traps and boulders are all used to control access to certain areas at different times.
A little-known fact is that ATV’s and ORV are allowed to drive around IDL gates and barriers as long as they are under 850 pounds, 50 inches wide, and have a wheelbase of sixty-one (61) inches or less. These vehicles need to remain on established roads and trails. This was news to me and opens up more hunting areas I plan to check out!
I spoke to three separate foresters concerning how the blocks were managed in their areas and their goals and issues with access. All three sounded committed to healthy north Idaho forests and to citizen’s recreational values and expressed a deep love of their jobs and the land. We all agreed that we live in a very special part of the country.
A recent press release from the IDL information office states that 96% (2.2 million acres) of the state endowment land is accessible to the public by foot or water.
If you are concerned about a closed road on IDL land in your favorite site, call the nearest IDL office and figure out which forester closed the road, why, and for how long. The goal of endowment clearly allows for recreating as long as lands are maximizing profits for timber sales.
You can reduce your frustrations with closed roads by reaching out to the local forester and sharing your concerns and learning their goals for the area. By building a relationship with them and even alerting them of wood theft or litter in certain areas, all can benefit with this beautiful land God has blessed us with! For those who enjoying using ATVs on IDL lands, know the law and understand that a gated road does not necessarily mean no ATV use. UNDERSTAND THE LAW:
ATV’s & OHV’s under 50 inches ARE ALLOWED behind all locked IDL gates unless posted otherwise-You just need to stay on the roads. This sign allows for ATV/OHV under 50 inches wide and under 850 pounds
The Idaho Department of Lands recently sent out a public reminder to citizens: Fire season isn’t over yet. Even though there are no restrictions on campfires right now, make sure your campfire is cool to the touch before leaving it so you do not unintentionally start a wildfire.
Endowment lands are available for you to enjoy, so please respect them.
Management activities on more than 2.4 million acres of state endowment trust lands produced more than $73 million in payments to Idaho public schools and other State of Idaho institutions this year. The Idaho Department of Lands manages these lands under the direction of the Land Board. Help us maintain these lands’ potential and your riding privilege by keeping Off-Highway Vehicles on established roads and trails.
Free camping is allowed on endowment lands, but only for up to 10 days in most parts of the state. Free camping is allowed on accessible endowment lands for no more than 10 consecutive days in most parts of the state.