WASHINGTON-In Congress a feel-good election-year bill is introduced, designed as an investment in public lands. It’s called the Great American Outdoors Act, and it’s caught the attention of the Farm Bureau.
“The bill does address several different things, everything from maintenance backlogs in our Parks Systems to a number of conservation themes that are certainly good. I think the vast majority of people would not oppose it,” said Braden Jensen of the Idaho Farm Bureau.
BUT, there's a part of the bill that conflicts with Farm Bureau policy.
“The bill permanently funds the existing Land and Conservation Fund. Proponents of the bill state it would increase access to public lands. Certainly, that might be a part of it but one of the things those dollars could be used for as well as additional land acquisition, and of course Idaho being a western state, already owned and managed by the Federal Government is a big concern. We already have approximately 30 percent of the landmass in the State of Idaho as private property,” said Jensen.
Small counties already suffering from the loss of tax revenue worry they’d have even less tax money for roads, bridges, law enforcement, and healthcare.
“Those lands all the sudden are removed from the tax rolls. So counties are legitimately concerned about this and particularly larger landmass counties with high percentages of Federal land in them, in their jurisdiction, upwards of 90-plus percent,” said Jensen.
The Great American Outdoors Act would spend a half-billion dollars refurbishing Yellowstone Park and Idaho’’s national forests, that's badly needed and has widespread support. But conservation groups buying land taking it out of production will continue to be a point of contention.