Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Aug. 23 approved a memorandum of agreement with the Idaho Department of Lands to continue public access for hunting, fish, trapping and other recreation on about 2.3 million acres of state endowment lands.
Fish and Game will provide $.25 per acre annually to the Department of Lands – about $580,000 – which includes credit for in-kind, law-enforcement services provided by Fish and Game conservation officers on endowment lands.
Fish and Game’s law enforcement services are valued at about $213,000, which is the equivalent of salaries, benefits, and operating expenses of two, full-time senior conservation officers, and enforcement will be performed by existing Fish and Game staff. Fish and Game will pay the remaining $367,000 annually in a direct payment.
While most Idaho endowment lands have traditionally been open to hunting, fishing, trapping and other recreation, state endowment lands are managed to provide revenues for public schools, universities, prisons and state hospitals. Revenues are typically generated through timber sales and grazing leases.
Unlike federal public lands, state endowment lands don’t receive general tax funding to manage public recreation, provide recreational services, or repair damage from irresponsible use.
In recent years, other western states have limited or restricted recreation and public access on their state trust lands, or required user fees or general tax funds to continue access and recreation.
The Fish and Game Commission supports keeping Idaho state endowment lands open for public hunting, fishing, trapping, and related recreation, and Idaho law allows the commission to enter into agreements to provide access to lands for those activities.
“It’s important that the commission ensure we have hunting, fishing and trapping access for the sportsmen and women of Idaho,” Fish and Game Commission Chair Derick Attebury said. “I hope this starts a long relationship between the Fish and Game Commission and Idaho Department of Lands.”
The agreement is open-ended with a provision to review acreage every five years. The future price per acre will be based on the consumer price index, but it would not exceed more than a 3-percent change annually.
Fish and Game will use some money from its 2017 fee increase, which includes new funding dedicated to securing and providing additional access. Money will also be used from federal excise taxes on hunting equipment, firearms and ammunition.
Here is the full memorandum of agreement.
More details about the agreement for hunting, fishing trapping and related recreational access on State Endowment Lands
STATE ENDOWMENT LANDS NOT AUTOMATICALLY OPEN TO PUBLIC RECREATION: Idaho has more than 2.4 million acres of state endowment (trust) lands, and Idaho’s Land Board is under a constitutional mandate to manage them to maximize long-term financial returns to public schools and other state institutions. Unlike federal public lands, state endowment lands do not receive general tax funding to manage public recreational use, provide recreational services or repair damage from irresponsible use. Although Idahoans have a state constitutional right to hunt, trap and fish, and although Idaho has traditionally allowed public access to most endowment lands, the Land Board’s fiscal responsibility to endowment beneficiaries comes first.
KEEPING PUBLIC ACCESS IN THE FACE OF CHANGE: The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has a long history of supporting and enhancing access to private and public property for lawful fishing, hunting, trapping and other wildlife-based recreation. Changing dynamics in recent years in Idaho and nearby states have renewed attention on public access availability. Changes in land ownership have resulted in closures or restrictions on long-standing public access areas. Traditions of public access are also shifting with increased access demands, as well as economic, cultural and policy changes in agricultural and timber land management.
Because of revenue requirements and potential property damage, other western states have limited or restricted general recreation use on state trust lands, or required user or general tax funding to keep them open to public recreation. The Commission has determined financial support is important to keeping Idaho’s endowment lands open for public hunting, fishing, trapping, and related recreational activities.
AGREEMENT WITH LAND BOARD FOR PUBLIC ACCESS: The Fish and Game Commission and Land Board have approved a Memorandum of Agreement Regarding Recreational Access on State Endowment Lands. Under the agreement, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) will pay 25 cents per acre each year to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) for recreational access on 2,316,400 acres of endowment land. The Agreement does not include endowment lands that are inaccessible because they are landlocked by private property or because they are leased for activities under terms that do not allow public access for security or safety reasons.
AGREEMENT FUNDING: Funds for annual endowment land access payments will come from IDFG’s share of the federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and hunting equipment, and from Sportsman Access Fees paid by buyers of Idaho hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. Some of the payment will be in-kind, through the services of IDFG conservation officers providing enforcement on endowment lands. The in-kind payment is equivalent to salaries, benefits, and operating expenses for two full-time senior conservation officers. IDL will receive approximately $367, 000 in net payment from IDFG annually, with inflationary adjustment. Funding from IDFG to continue hunting, fishing and related access on endowment lands will join recreation funds paid to IDL from a $1.00 assessment on each Idaho OHV registration (approximately $149,000 a year at current registration levels).
POLICY FRAMEWORK: Idaho law authorizes the Commission to enter into agreements to provide access to places where the public may fish, hunt, or trap in a lawful manner. In 2017, significant public debate on public access issues influenced the creation and passage of House Bill 230. This legislation included additional set-aside funding from a new Fish and Game license endorsement for enhanced public access programs, supporting a one million dollar increase to IDFG’s base budget to secure and provide additional access through agreements and easements. IDFG funds from federal excise taxes on hunting equipment, firearms and ammunition are also eligible to support public access. With current funding, IDFG can pay for endowment land access without cutbacks to other priorities or more fee increases. IDFG’s financial support and enforcement presence will help keep endowment lands open to public access under the recently adopted Idaho Land Board Recreation Policy, which allows continued public recreational access to Endowment lands as long as recreational activities do not degrade land, interfere with management activities, or otherwise negatively affect long-term endowment financial returns.