Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, April 08, 2005

Win for a Win: A Good Trade

by Senator Larry Craig

Most people who know me understand that I don’t have a lot of patience for waste or inefficiency in government. I’m always looking for ways to get the federal government to serve us all more effectively, to reflect the will of the people. So when I see officials in government agencies who are working to do just that, it catches my attention. And when those same people come up with ideas that benefit pretty much everyone, well, it just warms my heart.

That is what happened when I took an in-depth look at the Idaho Land Exchange plan. This proposed land exchange has the potential to benefit Idahoans all over the state, from North to South, and East to West. Let me tell you how.

As everyone knows, Idaho’s population and economy are growing very rapidly. Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Boise, Twin Falls, and even many of the rural communities are growing. As surprising as it may sound, open space can no longer be taken for granted in some of Idaho’s cities. Kootenai County residents have seen the Rathdrum Prairie, once covered with thousands of acres of bluegrass farms, change radically in less than a generation.

In the Treasure Valley, the trend has been much the same, as tracts of housing and commercial development continue to transform the region. In this environment, the City of Boise has taken a unique approach to addressing its future, and that of the surrounding area. Four years ago, in May of 2001, citizens of Boise approved a proposal to tax themselves to fund efforts to secure open space in the Boise Foothills. Since then, the City has worked to come up with a creative means to meet this challenge.

The Idaho Land Exchange is actually a package of land exchanges between the Idaho Department of Lands (DOL), the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Under the current proposal, state lands in the Foothills would be transferred to the Forest Service and BLM, in order to guarantee that they will be maintained as open space for wildlife management, riparian corridors and recreational access.

In return, BLM and Forest Service lands in Idaho’s panhandle would be transferred to Idaho Department of Lands. These lands would be managed under a State Constitutional mandate to generate revenue to benefit Idaho’s public schools. It truly is a win-win situation. Open space would be preserved in the Foothills for wildlife and outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking. The State would gain more-valuable timber lands, which will generate more dollars to help our children and grandchildren get a quality education.

In the past, there have been some land exchanges between the federal government and States or private parties, where the proceedings were not as transparent as they should have been. Not so with this exchange. There is a website at, where anyone who is interested can find all kinds of information, maps, and charts, and even provide comments. In addition, a number of public meetings were held, so opinions could be heard and questions answered. I would encourage everyone who might be interested to visit the website or attend a meeting, if possible.

This proposal gives Idahoans a unique chance to preserve the character of our communities and, as a result, provide for the education of our children. It truly is a win-win situation.


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