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Recreational shooting and access issues on land north of the Snake River Canyon in Jerome County have been in the news lately, and the Idaho Department of Lands would like to clarify some information and update citizens on these important issues.

Recent Twin Falls Times-News stories and an editorial implied that an accidental ricochet shooting occurred on state endowment land managed by IDL and that IDL policies were a root cause of public safety problems. The shooting actually occurred on land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. State endowment land is two miles west of where it happened.

In any case, the public safety concerns are real and IDL takes them seriously. Luckily the accident caused no serious injuries.

Counties and local government, not IDL, have the authority to restrict recreational shooting on state land. Idaho Code 18-3302J prohibits IDL from adopting or enforcing any “law, rule, regulation or ordinance” regulating recreational shooting. Any effort by IDL to restrict the discharge of a firearm on public land, including endowment land, would violate the express intent of the statute.

The authority for closing land to recreational shooting is expressly granted to local governments, such as county commissions, where it is determined an unreasonable risk to people or property exists.

If Jerome County adopts an ordinance closing a portion of its county to recreational shooting due to safety concerns, the ordinance would apply to endowment land within that county’s restriction area. The IDL would not oppose it.

The IDL also has been working with the county and the BLM to grant access across endowment land to BLM land where the Snake River Canyon Park will be located. The Idaho constitution requires that management of endowment land generates long-term financial returns to Idaho’s public school system and a number of other state institutions.

The IDL sent a letter to the BLM on Dec. 8, 2017, to communicate that IDL accepted all three access routes as identified in the BLM application. Six days later, IDL was notified that a cultural site had been identified — impacting the third route. The search for an alternate route is moving forward following recent meetings with all parties.

We understand the eagerness for resolution to the recreational shooting and access issues. The IDL has been in regular communication with Jerome County and the BLM on these important issues, and we remain committed to continuing to work with all parties to reach outcomes that best serve the endowment beneficiaries and the citizens of the Magic Valley.

David Groeschl is the director of the Idaho Department of Lands.


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