With 60 percent public land, Idaho has the potential to be the recreation capital of the West. Idahoans just need to embrace a new paradigm about what Idaho is and could be.
As political campaigns continue to ramp up, two topics seem to be emerging in virtually every race. The first is a game of one-upmanship where each candidate tries to prove he/she is more conservative than the opposition. The second revolves around the large tracts of publicly owned land, usually referred to as “federal” land and how it should be managed.
A major complaint by those hoping to be elected is that Idaho is over 60 percent public land. I specifically use the word, “public” in favor of “federal.” Public reminds us that these lands belong to all of us, not to the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management or the timber, grazing and mining industries.
The chanted rhetoric is that Idaho needs to “get back our land.” In reference to federally managed public land, that statement is disingenuous. It misleads by implying that these lands once belonged to the state and were wrested from state control by a heavy-handed federal government. In fact, these lands were public lands before Idaho gained statehood and have never been state owned or controlled.
The rub seems to be that for nearly 100 years, industry ruled over these public lands. But now, the American people, you and I, demand more accountability and full consideration of all the values these lands produce. That runs counter to an extractive profit-oriented culture.
But there is another way. I would like to offer a different paradigm for the future of Idaho’s resources. It seems clear that the only way forward to a stable and vibrant outdoor-based economy is through sustainable activities. Timber has a rotation of 40-100 years, making it unsustainable in a given lifetime. By definition, mining is not sustainable as eventually all supplies of minerals end. Grazing comes closest to a renewable activity and can be compatible with other resource uses when done properly. Carefully done in moderation, these resource uses can play into a long term economic plan.
However, instead of complaining about having a state that is 60 percent public land, Idaho is in a position to embrace that fact as a unique value not shared by the majority of states. It is a hand full of aces that we continue to keep tucked up our sleeve while trying to win the game with a pair of eights.
Recreation in every form is fully sustainable in the short and the long terms and thrives on public land. We have what much of the nation craves: wide open spaces with lots of outdoor activities. Rather than fight that and push for unsustainable levels of extraction, I say get creative, play for the long term and embrace the one thing that makes Idaho exceptional.
There are just three things we have to remember: no resource is limitless, they belong to everyone, and renewable uses are the only way to a secure future. A new paradigm for Idaho will embrace these concepts and will build a sustainable tomorrow.
P.S. This Saturday I will be signing copies of my book, The Best of Nature, at Barnes and Noble in the mall from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. I hope to see you there.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), The Best of Nature is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (425 Capital)
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho