BOISE — The Idaho Wildlife Federation added new language to Senate Bill 1089 that would make it possible for citizens to fight back in court against people who block access to Idaho's public land.
That language includes adding public roads, public easements and navigable streams to a law known as a the hunter harassment statute which prevents people from putting up private property signs on public land.
"We looked at this law and said wow it is actually pretty surprising that there is no civil remedy for public property trespasses like putting a gate on a public road," said Brian Brooks of the Idaho Wildlife Federation.
Brooks is convinced that the gate installed this past fall on Forest Road 374 near Bogus Basin by DF Development, a company owned by the Wilks brothers from Texas is on a public road.
"And yet the gate is still up," said Brooks.
Brooks said this legislation would give the public a chance to react themselves so they wouldn't have to wait for the government to intervene.
Many of these access issues happen in rural counties who don't have the resources to enforce penalties when land access gets blocked and they certainly don't have the funds for litigation against wealthy land owners.
Brooks said that if this law were to pass the public would still need to do their homework to prove that public access is being blocked illegally, but he hopes the process would give Idahoans a chance to protect their lands.
"It may be once you deliver an intent to sue to open up a public road that the landowner does not want to be sued and knows it is a public road and they will just open the gate or take it down," said Brooks. "That is the hope here that we are going to keep people honest and that we won't have to get involved in litigation."
The bill was sponsored by (R) Senator Fred Martin who is out of Boise, Martin received concerns from his constituents after the story about the gate near Bogus Basin first broke, the next step will be a full hearing from the Senate Resources Committee which will likely happen next week.
"Anybody who uses public roads or public lands in their pursuit of happiness should support this law," said Brooks. "It is common sense."
Here is a link to the Idaho Wildlife Federation website.