The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will pay about $360,000 a year to retain public recreation access to nearly 3,600 square miles of state land.
The state Fish and Game Commission agreed on August 23 to pay the state endowment 25 cents per acre per year, the Idaho Press reported .
Under agreement between the commission and the state Land Board, Fish and Game will pay about $360,000 a year with annual inflation built in.
Fish and Game will provide two full-time senior conservation officers who will patrol the state endowment lands.
The winners of the deal are students, schools and outdoor enthusiasts, said Gov. Butch Otter on August 23.
“It is a creative solution to a long-standing issue, which is why I was pleased to support it,” Otter said. “I am confident that providing maximum access to endowment lands will create a greater sense of ownership and care.”
Under state law, the land board is required to maximize returns on endowment lands. The long-term returns from state endowment lands go to its beneficiaries like the state’s public schools.
Land officials have been conflicted over leasing the part of the state lands to private groups with deep pockets that may want to turn them into private hunting preserves or keeping the lands open for recreation as the state has traditionally done.
The state Land Board addressed that issue this week by adopting a new policy that allows recreational access wherever it doesn’t interfere with the state endowment’s obligation to earn returns for beneficiaries.
“While hunters and anglers have enjoyed access at no charge to endowment lands, that is not a guarantee that they will always enjoy that,” said Ed Schriever, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “In fact, if you look to our sister states surrounding us who also have endowment lands, the majority are no longer providing that for free.”
Currently, 96 percent of the state’s endowment land is open for public access.