Friday, May 14, 2021

Problems with public lands

| March 25, 2021 1:00 AM

The Panhandle Idaho State Department of Lands has been acquiring hundreds of acres of land during recent years and designating them as “Public Lands.” Much like the Panhandle National Forestry department, they seem to have their own unique interpretation of what “Public” land represents.

The Forestry department simply installs gates on the vast majority of the National Forestry access roads. Nice and simple. Just keep the public out and all problems disappear.

Apparently the North Idaho State Department of Lands admires that strategy and is applying it to the land that they acquire and designate as “Public Lands.” Any visitors to the new Public Land acquisitions of the State Department of Lands will be confronted with gates and monster ditches on any roads or other areas that used to provide access to the now “public” lands.

The ditches in their most recent acquisition are so deep that they will not only discourage any public access but are also a hazard to wildlife, especially in the spring. The additional strategy to discourage public use on certain state lands is to cut down thousands of small to medium trees (in the name of thinning), and seemingly forget to clean up the massive slash everywhere on the property.

To further discourage public use of this land, the downed trees were cut off at a sharp angle about 12-14” off the ground (like spikes). Should someone trip over the slash and fall on one or more of the sharp spikes they will be dangerously reminded not to return.

This kind of clutter and hazard is surely not conducive for wildlife environment, either. Currently most of the state and national forest land is open only for foot and horse access. Maybe the state and national forest departments in North Idaho could consider designating a slice or two of their huge coffers of public land for areas that can be publicly utilized for off-road vehicles. Most if not all of the Northwest states have such areas.

And as a kind gesture for the Panhandle environment, please utilize some of your over abundance of tax money to clean up the slash fields after logging. If it is to be called “public land,” then it should be managed in a way that is conducive for public utilization.

• • •

Jay Martin is an Athol resident.