By Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Department of Lands has released a map detailing recreation accessibility on the state's public endowment lands despite earlier political resistance from Idaho lawmakers.
According to the agency, Director Tom Schultz requested the mapping of the state-owned land after the Idaho Legislature spiked a resolution urging the department to highlight which areas are accessible for recreation.
The maps, which were released on Thursday, show that 96 percent of the endowment lands are accessible by foot or by boat. Additionally, the department is working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to ensure that the new mapping layer is added to the state's online interactive hunt planner map.
"There's significant recreation occurring on the state's endowment lands," Schultz said. "I think the public cares about these lands a lot and we recognize that state trust lands access is important. That's the reason why we did this."
Schultz added that the department was able to provide the maps without adding more state code to the books, which was a concern from opposing lawmakers who blocked the original resolution. The department has always had access to the information, but the new maps provide a more accurate representation on recreational access that was previously not easily available to the public.
Earlier this year, House lawmakers surprisingly killed the resolution encouraging the implementation of the maps just hours after the majority of them approved sending the bill to the Senate.
The resolution was originally approved 43-26, but Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, pulled a rarely used legislative procedure and asked for the chamber to reconsider the measure. Later that afternoon, the reconsideration vote showed that Nilsson Troy and 20 other Republican lawmakers flipped their aye votes to squash the proposal.
"To this day, I have no idea what happened," said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, who sponsored the resolution. "There were rumors that the maps would be seen as conspiratorial somehow or that they would cost too much money to create. Apparently, neither one of those reasons turned out to be true."
Erpelding, along with other conservative groups supporting the resolution, described the bill's failure at the time as a "blow to transparency."
The state currently has about 2.44 million acres of endowment land managed by a board of Idaho's top political leaders, including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. The board has a constitutional responsibility to manage that land to maximize financial returns over the long term.
A link to the new recreation access map can be found here .