The Idaho Fish Department of and Game is spending a quarter per acre to ensure we have more places to hunt.
A recently signed agreement requires Idaho Fish and Game pay the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) to allow hunters and anglers — the public in general — to recreate on state endowment lands.
Fish and Game and IDL signed the latest land policy in August that affects 2.4 million acres in Idaho.
It includes paying IDL 25 cents per acre from Fish and Game’s share of the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition, and from sportsmen access fees paid by buyers of Idaho hunting and fishing licenses.
Although endowment lands were already being used by the public, the idea of the latest agreement is to ensure the land stays in the public domain for hunters and fishers to use while reimbursing the state for the damage annually incurred on endowment lands, said Sharla Arledge of IDL.
Arledge said the agreement increases the return on endowment lands, which are managed by the state to provide as much cash as possible to public schools and other state institutions.
“The idea is we have to have a maximum return for beneficiaries,” Arledge said. “This compensates for the recreational use on endowment lands.”
The state constitution mandates IDL manage the lands for maximum financial return, Arledge said, and although there has been no set-in-stone code, the state has traditionally allowed recreational use on the land that includes camping, hunting and fishing.
“It’s always happened,” she said. “There just hasn’t been an official policy.”
Some western states have limited or restricted general recreational use on state trust lands, or implemented a tax to keep the lands open to the public to reimburse the state for the damage annually incurred on endowment lands.
State lands director David Groeschl said some of the money will be used to hire conservation officers in an effort to prevent illegal tree cutting, fires, garbage dumping and property destruction.
“There’s been an increase in the use of endowment land, especially over the past 10 or 20 years,” Groeschl said.
Over those years, negative impact on the land has also increased, and the cost of managing the land has doubled from around $500,000 to more than $1 million annually.
“Otherwise the endowments are bearing that cost,” he said.
Most of the land — about 85 percent — is being managed for public schools. Other endowments include the University of Idaho, normal schools, prisons and charitable institutions.
Idaho Fish and Game recognized the need to keep the lands open to the public — primarily hunters and anglers — and recognized at the same time, that the public is responsible for much of the damage to the land.
Fire damage and suppression is one of the areas the state has had to contend with.
“Most wildfires today are not naturally occurring,” Roger Phillips of Fish and Game said. “On lands protected by the (state), people — not lightning — are responsible for more than three-quarters of the fires this year, accounting for 98.4 percent of the acres burned.”
Timber sales and leases on state endowment trust lands produced more than $73 million this year, according to the state. The agreement between IDL and IDFG will be reviewed every five years.
Phillips said rules for endowment lands include keeping off-road vehicles on marked roads and trails, following state fire and tree-cutting restrictions and limiting camping to 14 days.
For a map of state endowment lands, go to the Idaho Fish and Game online page and find “maps” under the Hunting tab.