|Boise, ID – Idaho’s 2.5 million acres of endowment trust lands are meant to generate revenue through timber, grazing and other management activities. This money helps fund the endowment beneficiaries, primarily K-12 education and reduces taxes on hard-working Idahoans. Recreational use of endowment land is a secondary privilege allowed only if it does not cause damage or disturb the revenue generating potential of the land.
More than 96% of endowment land is accessible by foot, watercraft, or motor vehicle, for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, or other recreation.
“Unfortunately, when a few bad actors damage endowment land, it can impact recreational access for everyone,” said Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) Director Dustin Miller. “Money to repair damage comes out of funding for public schools and recreation user fees and short-changes Idaho’s children and outdoor enthusiasts.”
According to Miller, when the damage becomes acute, IDL may have to close a damaged parcel to recreation.
But thanks to a group of civic-minded stakeholders, there’s an alternative to closing the land for recreation on the horizon.
During the last legislative session, a group of stakeholders including the Idaho State ATV Association, Idaho Recreation Council, Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association and Idaho Sportsmen sponsored legislation to help curb destructive behavior on endowment land.
Governor Little signed their bill into law on March 20.
The new law provides an alternative to heavy handed misdemeanor or felony criminal trespass changes for those who damage endowment land. Instead, it allows POST certified law enforcement officers to issue warnings and simple citations.
“These more reasonable penalties are more likely to be enforced and they open the door for educating the public about the privilege of responsible recreation on endowment land,” said Benn Brocksome, Executive Director of Idaho Sportsmen.
Rulemaking is required to implement the new law.
The Idaho Department of Lands and the stakeholders who sponsored Senate Bill 1049 hope Idahoans interested in all types of outdoor recreation on endowment land will engage in the negotiated rulemaking process.
“There must be a reasonable consequence for people, whether they don’t understand the damage they are causing or simply need appropriate correction,” said Brocksome. “This negotiated rulemaking is our opportunity as stakeholders to stand together to make this happen.”
Through negotiated rulemaking all interested parties and IDL will seek consensus on the content of the draft rule. The process includes public meetings that foster discussions about the rule, and the opportunity for the public to submit written comments for the agency to consider.
Public meetings for the rulemaking are scheduled for June 22 in Boise and July 10 in Coeur d’Alene. Citizens can attend these hearings by Zoom, too. Written comments on the draft rule are accepted through July 19, 2023.
“Those who recreate on endowment land are encouraged to participate in this next step by sharing their ideas,” said Miller. “This rulemaking will define what inappropriate behaviors on endowment land will be subject to warning and infraction tickets.”
Details about this rulemaking process, along with a draft copy of the rule, are available at www.idl.idaho.gov/recreation-rulemaking. You can also sign up to receive email or text updates about this rulemaking on the webpage.
Here are a few examples of the types of behaviors this rulemaking hopes to address:
- A favorite campground in eastern Idaho had to be shut down to all but day use after people kept leaving trash and human waste. People were also taking UTVs and traveling off trail, damaging the land and creating problems with erosion. People can now only walk into the area to hike or fish.
- In northern Idaho people were tearing up timberland by riding UTVs off trail. Idaho Department of Lands had to shut down the affected area, build fences, rehabilitate the land and reestablish one riding trail. So far it has taken two years with a cost of nearly $23,000 dollars, and the work continues.
- In southern Idaho IDL staff continually deal with inconsiderate people dumping appliances, furniture, tires and other trash on endowment land. It takes time and many resources to clean up and haul away the garbage. The cost is taken out of money for the beneficiaries who own the land, in essence bad actors steal funds from our school kids.
Endowment Lands are different than other types of publicly managed land. In accordance with Idaho’s Constitution, it is held in a legal trust for the sole purpose of financially supporting specific beneficiaries, primarily public schools. The Idaho Constitution requires endowment lands to be managed to maximize revenue for the beneficiaries.