Dear Bonner County Board of Commissioners,
The Idaho Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers would like to thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed draft Bonner County Natural Resource Plan. The Idaho Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers represents over 17,000 members nationally and approximately 900 members across the state of Idaho. As an organization we pride ourselves on being the sportsman’s voice for wild public lands, water and wildlife.
The Idaho Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers applaud your efforts to diversify the counties economic development and wholeheartedly support private property rights. At the same time, we see some of your proposed actions as unnecessarily targeting sales of the American public land estate, which is part of the fabric of our County’s economy and lifestyle.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers supports multiple use management of Federal public lands and we recognize the need to ensure that the State of Idaho continues to manage it’s trust lands for sustainable, long-term financial returns to public schools and other trust beneficiaries. Currently management of State of Idaho trust lands offer multiple use opportunities with a current emphasis in north Idaho towards timber harvest, but does not limit other users of the resource. Idaho Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers encourages and supports current consistent long-term management that benefits all users equally.
We feel that certain provisions within the current Bonner County Natural Resource Plan undermines the authority of Federal and State land managers to fulfill their obligation to operate under the public trust, particularly:
5.1 Objective: Identify and implement mechanisms that preserve or increase the amount of private land in the County to enhance the tax base and encourage rural development in the County.
8.3 Policy: To the greatest extent possible, no changes in ownership shall provide a net gain of federal and state owned or managed land without notifying the County in advance
8.6.1 Objective: Identify and recommend for sale or trade those isolated tracts of state and federally managed lands which could be better and more efficiently managed by the private sector
Bonner County has long sustained a lifestyle and culture that is engrained in its land base – supporting generations of families that have benefited from such direct and wide-open access to public lands. This lifestyle has helped attract continued growth in both population and the economy overtime. Simply put, privatizing access to public lands would negatively impact both the quality of life and economy of the county.
While Bonner County has certainly experienced its share of economic ups and downs, most recently as a result of the gain/loss of less traditional employers, land-based jobs and the recreation economy remain a stable force in the community under current ownership and management. This is backed-up by a 2015 report by Headwater Economics showed that the county continues to experience sustained population and economic growth under current land management and ownership patterns. We urge the County to take this report into account when proposing such drastic land ownership changes.
In Idaho, outdoor recreation accounts for $6.3 million in consumer spending, $1.8 million in wages and salaries, 77,000 direct Idaho jobs and $461 million in state and local tax revenue. These figures are a direct result of the long term consistent management of Idaho’s natural resources found on federal public lands and state lands. Bonner County benefits directly from these natural resources, specifically natural assists such as Schweitzer Mountain, Lake Pend Oreille, Priest Lake, Upper Priest Lake, the Lightning Creek Drainage and the Selkirk Crest.
The Idaho Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers disagree with objectives in this plan that is counter to the Public Trust Doctrine and the North American Model of Wildlife Management. Both of these predominate and time-tested management systems suggest that Bonner County must ensure management decisions benefit all beneficiaries of our public lands, including those that live within and outside of the political boundaries of Bonner County. The proposed objectives outlined above ignore this obligation to the American people.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has been a leader in collaborative natural resources management as seen by our participation in the Clearwater Basin Collaborative and the High Divide Collaborative. We believe these collaborative processes better account for the values of the community and we look forward to opportunities to work collaboratively with the Bonner County Natural Resource Committee in developing a plan with objectives that represent shared interests by all beneficiaries.