A lease agreement between Fish and Game and industrial forest owners provides sportsmen access to over 800,000 acres of private timber land in Idaho. Finalized in October 2019, this agreement is part of Fish and Game’s Large Tracts Program and includes several large landowners and over 500,000 acres in the Panhandle.
Here are four reasons to take advantage of this program before the year is out:
- Edge habitat galore. Logged areas create openings for browse and are easy to glass, while forested draws offer security habitat and water. Stream and wetland buffers and irregular stand borders create many linear miles of mixed habitat that deer and elk love.
- Options near home. Smaller checkerboard parcels close to town are great for a day trip or quick sit after work. Additionally, many of these lands border agricultural areas, which can pay off big if you catch a well-fed deer on their daily commute from a bed site. Remember that extra caution is required when hunting near residences and stock. The Large Tracts Program does not permit access to neighboring private parcels and property boundaries may not be marked. It’s your responsibility to know whose land you’re on.
- Cover more miles with ease. The agreement with the North Idaho Forest Group guarantees walk-in access only. PotlatchDeltic allows for off-highway vehicle use with a separate permit, which is available online. All this means a developed road network can get you covering ground fast without a gnarly bushwack through the North Idaho woods. Always follow posted rules for motorized access and do not block gates. Remember that logging traffic may be present seven days a week.
- Not featured on major hunting apps (yet!). As of November 2019, popular hunting apps haven’t integrated the Large Tracts parcels in to their online libraries. The Idaho Hunt Planner on the other hand can delineate the Large Tracts, state and federal land and provide detailed topographic and aerial basemaps that will help you e-scout successfully.
Detailed road maps and up-to-date timber harvest information are not available through Fish and Game. Conservation Officers and biologists who regularly access these private forest lands recommend using detailed satellite imagery basemaps to get a clearer picture of the road network. Be prepared to do some on-the-ground scouting in addition to your desktop research.
The Large Tracts agreement covers non-motorized recreation only; gates are not required to be open and are managed at the owner’s discretion.
Each company manages their land differently. Do not damage roads and trails; do abide by travel restrictions, such as closed roads, non-motorized trail restrictions, vehicle restrictions, camping restrictions, etc. Be respectful of these working timber lands in order to protect public access privileges.
The North Idaho Forest Group agreement includes several partners including Stimson, Hancock, and Molpus. Not all industrial timber owners are part of this agreement. Inland Empire Paper for instance allows access to hunters and other recreationists through a separate permit system.
While many of these private timber lands have been open to hunters, anglers and trappers in the past, the Large Tracks agreement provides reliable access through a formalized lease, funded by hunting and fishing license fees, for at least three years with a process to continue the agreement in to the future.
Many hunters have experienced the heartache of lost access as ownership and management changes can happen overnight. The Large Tracts Program seeks to avoid major losses and keep access consistent and open to all.
Visit the Fish and Game website to learn more about the land access programs or call the Panhandle Regional Office at (208)769-1414.