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Idaho's Large Tracts Program brings opportunities, challenges

 
October 27, 2021

By T.J. Ross
IDFG Regional Communications Manager

Citizens of Idaho enjoy something most folks from other states only dream of: an abundance of publicly accessible lands. It’s easy to take for granted because nearly two-thirds of Idaho is federally managed for public access, making the possibilities nearly endless when it comes to recreating outdoors, especially for hunters, trappers and anglers.

However, many landscapes valued for their wildlife resources are actually privately owned.

In 2019, Idaho Fish and Game forged an innovative lease partnership with several corporate timberland owners to provide public access to over 900,000 acres of private timberland. Yes, just shy of one million acres!

The partnership, known as the Large Tracts Program, was crafted specifically with hunters, anglers and trappers in mind. The lands are also available for other recreational uses, including wildlife viewing, hiking and berry and mushroom gathering.

All of the Large Tracts parcels are in the Panhandle or Clearwater regions, and the first three years since the program’s inception have revealed a few important things:
  • The program has created several new access options for sportsmen.
  • Because the lands are privately-owned, land transactions may occur that change access.
  • Fire closures and motorized restrictions on Large Tracts properties vary depending on ownership.
  • Accurately mapping and tracking seasonal or permanent changes including closures, restrictions and land transactions is ongoing and can be challenging considering it often involves multiple partners.

Fish and Game staff are regularly communicating with corporate timberland owners to develop processes for updating maps to reflect closures, restrictions and land transfers prior to and during hunting seasons.

In addition, Fish and Game staff are communicating with developers of popular hunting apps for smartphones to try and incorporate consistent and accurate maps.

Fish and Game staff are developing systems and processes to identify errors and incorporate changes when they occur.

Fish and Game conservation officers are taking enforcement action with people who violate motorized restriction closures and are educating them on the new law.

Fish and Game and other partners are constantly seeking to improve functionality and accuracy of maps. The Large Tracts Program is relatively new and requires a significant amount of coordination to implement.

Fish and Game has received reports of hunters attempting to access Large Tracts parcels that appear as open and accessible on the Idaho Hunt Planner and other mapping resources, but are marked as “private property” or “no trespassing” with either signs or a gate on the road.

In these circumstances, Fish and Game recommends abiding by the private property markings. If, upon further investigation, you believe the signs are posted in error, please call the Panhandle Regional office at (208) 769-1414 or the Clearwater Regional office at (208) 799-5010. Fish and Game will research the situation and do our best to provide you with a timely answer.

Good luck, and be safe out there!

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