Friday, October 07, 2016

Idaho hunters learn Texas billionaires are locking them out at the last minute

Steve Wolfinger was planning to go on what was his first Idaho elk hunt starting Saturday in Adams and Valley counties. But a week before he was planning to get on a jet to fly from his home in Arkansas, the 70-year-old got a letter from Regan Berkley, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game wildlife manager from McCall. She told him that private land recently owned by Potlatch Corp. that covers much of the unit where he planned to hunt is now closed. DF Development, the new owners of the 172,000 acres of timberland and a vast road system in Adams, Valley and Boise counties, informed Fish and Game that the land will no longer be open to hunting. Wolfinger and 304 other hunters had controlled-hunt tags for units where 30 percent of the land is owned by the Cisco, Texas, company. Berkley told those hunters they could trade their controlled-hunt tag for a general elk tag if they wanted. Hunters go through a lottery to get controlled-hunt tags for units where they have higher odds of bagging an animal. But that won’t work for Wolfinger: He has time to hunt this week, but the general season hasn’t started yet. “I hope you spread the word,” his son, Bradley Wolfinger, told the Statesman via email. “Outrageous.” I first reported in August that Farris and Dan Wilks had purchased the land owned for decades by Boise Cascade. The two Texas billionaires have been buying up land all over the West, and closing off much of the access to those lands. The Wilks brothers, who made their fortune in the oil well services business, visited their new domain earlier this month for two days, said Valley County Commissioner Elting Hasbrouck. They toured the area with their forester, Colin Chambers, of McCall. Hasbrouck, a rancher who owns a big chuck of real estate himself, said the Wilkses may find it hard to keep hunters out when there is so much game in the forests they own. Hasbrouck had problems with trespassing for years until he told hunters that anyone who helped him brand his calves could come hunt in the fall. He’s had a hard-core group help him annually...more 

And there is this concerning the transfer of federal lands: 

The story about the Wilkes’ purchase has taken on a life of its own. Opponents to the transfer or sale of public lands are using the closures as Exhibit A of what can happen if lands that are traditionally open to the public go into private hands. But it’s the way the story affects snowmobilers, four-wheelers, loggers and hunters such as Wolfinger that has given this story legs, as well as the Wilkses’ unwillingness to talk to anyone about their actions or their plans.

Read more here:

As I have mentioned before, for instance here, there is a solution to this:
These lands can be transferred to the states with a guarantee the public will always have access for hunting and other forms of recreation.

How's that?  Its called a reverter clause.  You find these in federal land transfers all the time.  For instance see the disposal of federal lands under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act.  All of these contain a reverter clause which states if the lands no longer are serving the purposes for which it was transferred the lands then revert back to the federal government.

You would simply need language in the transfer legislation requiring they remain open for hunting  and recreation and that would be binding on the state or any subsequent owner.  Violations would result in the lands reverting to the feds.

So if public access is the only objection to the transfer of these lands, that is easily handled...
And here:
The only transfer issue brought up in this column is these lands might wind up in private hands.  Personally, I would like to see a clean transfer to the states, where the local needs and concerns can influence the highest and best use of the resource.  However, if there is a legitimate concern for maintaining public access to certain parcels or areas, you simply place a reverter clause in the transfer instrument.  If the state or private owner doesn't, in this case, maintain public access, the land reverts back to the feds.  Reverter clauses already exist in law, such as the Recreation & Public Purposes Act, so that language could be easily adapted for public access.  In other words, the one issue they raise can be easily resolved.
Some just don't believe me, or refuse to discuss a reverter clause. For those here is the language from the Recreation & Public Purposes Act.

The Secretary of the Interior upon application filed by a duly qualified applicant under section 869–1 of this title may, in the manner prescribed by sections 869 to 869–4 of this title, dispose of any public lands to a State, Territory, county, municipality, or other State, Territorial, or Federal instrumentality or political subdivision for any public purposes, or to a nonprofit corporation or nonprofit association for any recreational or any public purpose consistent with its articles of incorporation or other creating authority. Before the land may be disposed of under sections 869 to 869–4 of this title it must be shown to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the land is to be used for an established or definitely proposed project, that the land involved is not of national significance nor more than is reasonably necessary for the proposed use, and that for proposals of over 640 acres comprehensive land use plans and zoning regulations applicable to the area in which the public lands to be disposed of are located have been adopted by the appropriate State or local authority. 

The Airplane and Airport Act grants similar legislative disposal authority to the FAA and a reverter clause under that Act is defined by the GSA as:

Right of Reverter. The instrument of conveyance from the federal government must
specify the right to have property interest revert to a federal agency and title revest in the United
States. This right extends only to the title, right of possession, or other rights vested in the United
States at the time the federal government transferred the property described in the instrument to
the grantee. The right may be exercised only at the option of the United States – with or without
the cooperation of a grantee – against all or part of the property in question.

So if their are special parcels where public access should be allowed, that is easily accomplished with a reverter clause.

One other observation. Look again at the language in the Recreation & Public Purposes Act and notice all the steps the non-federal entity must go through, one of which is having a local plan adopted before the transfer.  And compare that to the Antiquities Act, where the President can transfer millions of acres from multiple-use to restricted-use, with no hearings or notice, and the feds adopt a plan after the transfer.


Anonymous said...

In New Mexico the Monticello Box was closed after another wealthy Texas rancher bought surrounding ranches. Then advertised it as trophy deer/elk hunting and 4wd ranch as selling points, the same ones used to petition the counties to close the road.
The Sierra and Socorro County road through it was closed that historically had been a NM state highway before it was turned over to the counties.
It accessed two state sections of public land.
Plus the scenic drive connecting Hwy 52 to Monticello and I-25.

This is not the way to unify Americans behind ranchers. It is divisive. It pits us against each other. All groups of back country uses: hunters, anglers, hikers,4x4's, horse-back, etc.
At a time when we all need to hang together to defend our Rights against government over-reach by EPA, ACE, ESA, gun grabbers, we're under attack from every direction, you name it. I hate to see this happen and the individuals doing it should take a long look in the mirror, or I guess they really don't care about which way their country goes, just their own mealy mouth little world.
Divide the Indians, the Blacks, the Caucasians, the Asians from each other.
Divide the religions.
Divide the gun owners and target shooters from hunters.
Divide bow hunters from firearms hunters.
Divide them all from "Ranchers".
When it comes to preserving our Rights and Property Rights there is so many rules to do so that nobody helps each other anymore. "It's not my problem."

Dave Pickel said...

You know it Bud! Divide and conquer.

Dave Skinner said...

It's gonna get worse. Now that Plum Creek has been bought by Weyerhaeuser, it's a safe bet that PCL's former core base, now pretty much mowed of its ability to generate cash, is going to go on the block for sale, with the hope that LWCF funds will buy it for the feds at a crazy stupid price well above any rational Net Present Value.
And the Wilks brothers? They can afford it, can afford to turn Idaho into Texas.

Anonymous said...

Well I hope I see either of them out here on the trail. I didn't see any orange paint or signs... #HANGTHEWILKSBROTHERS