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Environment | Land

A 'Trust Forced on the West' Creates Balancing Act on Public Lands

A paddler on Stanley Lake. Nestled in in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, it's one of many publicly owned lands in Idaho.

A paddler on Stanley Lake. Nestled in in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, it’s one of many publicly owned lands in Idaho.

Jay Krajic

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho is almost two-thirds federal land - managed by agencies including the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management. That makes up about 33 million acres of deserts, mountains, lakes, rivers, and wilderness area.

Many in Idaho wonder if the federal government has too much say in how that land is used. But like any good issue, there is a valid argument that if the land was privatized and sold off to the highest bidder that the landscape as it is today would likely disappear.

In “The People’s Land”, Idaho Public Television takes on a handful of current federal land battles. From mining to logging and the development of a management plan at a popular recreational lake; the personal stories will make you wonder how different Idaho would be if President Theodore Roosevelt hadn’t seen the need to protect the land and wildlife.

This is also the first “Outdoor Idaho” that utilized EarthFix reporter Aaron Kunz, who tackled the public debate over the future of Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge in Canyon County. Within the wildlife refuge sits Lake Lowell, a very popular location for boating, water-skiing, and fishing. As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works to develop a management plan mandated by Congress. County leaders are demanding the federal agency allow its citizens to use the lake without additional regulations.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the water, the fish, and wildlife that call the lake home. They have to balance what is best for the fish and wildlife while taking into account that while they manage the lake and surrounding land. They don’t own the water that belongs to the many water right holders in western Idaho.

You can watch the season premiere on Idaho Public Television throughout Idaho and portions of Oregon and Washington. Next summer the episode will likely air on public television stations in the Pacific Northwest. The episode is now available online on the Outdoor Idaho page.

Watch The People’s Land on PBS. See more from Outdoor Idaho.


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