Featured Professional: Chuck Cuddy, Idaho State Representative, District 7
Public Lands Task Force Report
Senator Danielson and I co-chaired two years of testimony and meetings concerning the Public Lands Task Force Report submitted to the State Land Board. Our primary endeavor was to implement the redirection of public land management. The loss of jobs, local revenue, and non-management of federally owned lands within Idaho prompted the task force. In Clearwater and Idaho Counties federal revenue to counties, and highway and school districts has reduced over the past few years by some $4,000,000 per year with the burden of replacement falling on the property tax payer. When one adds the lost revenue from employment and business, the impact becomes exponential. You can add to this the reduced elk population as a result of habitat non-management and the ever-increasing potential for catastrophic fire. Jack Ward Thomas put it best when he stated that the current federal land management system is broke.
The Federal Lands Task Force Report recommends experimental management of part of the federal lands, keeping in mind that the state now successfully manages under the same clean water, clean air, and endangered species laws as the Federal Government does.
The proposal we submitted to the land board outlines three methods of management:
- The trust method would be very similar to the state’s current system of managing state endowment land and as we perceive, state land department professionals would manage it.
- The collaborative method would allow a coalition of federal, state, and private individuals working together on a plan of management that fits the desires of all land managers while allowing greater local public involvement in the planning process. This process could possibly include a management system proposed by an individual group such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or others.
- The cooperative process would be a co-management scheme between the State Land Department and the Federal Land Management Agency now charged with management driven by negotiated agreement between the agencies.
Note that the report contains very similar guidelines for the public in-put and hearing process for each alternative.
The result of our hearings revealed the major difficulty with federal management, particularly the Forest Service, was current rules and regulations that allows and uncontrollable and continual public involvement process resulting in delayed management decisions and deficit product sales. The actual on-the-ground federal management we observed was very comparable to that found on state and private lands once they had reached implementation.
To continue our process we will need to convince other public land states and the United States Congress that this plan provides for all the public interests, not just those who consider delay and grid-lock their primary goal.
We understand we have undertaken a major and complex project, but believe we can, by gaining support, achieve some if not all of our goals.
It appears we are ahead of other states in the process. If we can lead a unified effort that convinces the federal government they have to logically address their management problems and correct them, we have no doubt done our job. If the federal government is not afraid to let us provide proof of our professional capabilities, we will be well on our way to providing cost effective management of our public lands ultimately stabilizing local economies and returning federal lands once again , to being a contributing member of the community.