Endowment Lands

Endowment Lands

The League of Women Voters of Idaho supports management of Idaho’s endowment lands to provide maximum revenue consistent with good land management policies and practices, protection of the environment and preservation of future values; supports a statutorily-created Land Board.
Position In Brief: 

Support for management of Idaho’s endowment lands to provide maximum revenue consistent with good land management policies and practices, protection of the environment and preservation of future values; support for a statutorily-created Land Board.

Position History: 

The League of Women Voters of Idaho’s study of public school finance generated many unanswered questions about the source of funds from endowment lands. The League adopted the issue for study in 1971 and reached a consensus position in 1973. Since then, League members have informed parents, teachers, and others of the purposes for which these lands were endowed. The League provided input regarding such areas as management policies, lease rates, geothermal regulations, and mining implementation. 

The League of Women Voters of Idaho updated this study in 1978-79 with a committee guide and a publication entitled State Endowment Lands. In 1979, local Leagues concurred with an expansion of the endowment lands consensus dealing with the Land Board.

The 1993-94 legislature increased appropriations to create two positions: 1) a new range position in eastern Idaho established to help manage, and 2) a dock leasing position in northern Idaho to generate income. The Department of Lands consensus was that funding was adequate in timber management and inadequate in lands, range, and minerals. The appropriations included a cost-of-living and doing business increase. In 1993-94, over $3 million was distributed to permanent endowment lands and $8 million was distributed through the income funds.

An informal land-use budgeting process is used. A private appraiser is hired to establish the highest and best use, comparing adjacent and surrounding land. Local input may be provided through the local highway district and county commissioners.

Standard operating procedure steps are as follows:

  • The Department of Lands proposes a budget to the Land Board who can approve or disapprove any line item.
  • The budget is presented by the director to the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee who sets a budget which is then voted upon by the whole legislature.
  • The legislature can also change line items.
  • Special interest groups can find a sponsor to carry a bill through a legislative committee (e.g. funds clear cutting).

By direction of the Land Board, the Department of Lands has been working for one year for public involvement. The policy is now being published.

The composition of the State Land Board is determined by the State Constitution. Board positions are held by virtue of elected offices and consist of the Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, and Superintendent of Public Schools. Staggered terms are not considered possible as the elections for these positions are concurrent every four years. League members will continue to monitor the State Land Board meetings and to work with education and conservation groups to ensure that good land-use management is consistent with maximum revenues. The League may revisit its position to address public participation in Land Board decisions. There is a lawsuit pending at the Idaho State Supreme Court, to be heard in the summer of 1994. (Selkirk-Priest Basin Association v the Idaho Land Board. 1993-94) The League has been requested to support the case through forums, debates, and public discussion. (Updated 1994)

The League of Women Voters of Idaho believes that Idaho’s endowment lands should be managed to provide the maximum possible revenue for public schools and other endowed institutions. Maximizing revenue can, however, be in conflict with other important values such as good land-use practices, protection of the environment and preservation of other future-oriented values. When the short-term goal of maximizing income for the endowment is in conflict with those other values arising from more long-term goals, the long-term goals are more important. 

To achieve the above purposes, the League supports:

  • a moratorium on endowment land sales until all such lands are inventoried and classified
  • establishment of long-range management policies
  • consolidation of endowment lands to form better management units
  • acquisition of in-lieu lands to which Idaho is entitled
  • special consideration for endowment lands which are unique because of historical, recreational or other values

In order to achieve optimum long-range management of Idaho’s endowment lands, adequate funding should be made available through increased legislative appropriations, combined with a percentage of the income from the endowment lands. (Adopted in March of 1975)

Before state endowment lands are sold, the proposed use should be reviewed for conformity to local plans and state policies. (Adopted in March of 1975)

The State Land Board should concern itself with the establishment of policy in which actual management of the endowment lands should be entrusted to the Department of Public Lands.

Composition of the Land Board should be established b statute. Members of the board should be appointed with staggered terms and should include a representative for education and persons with expertise in land management. (Adopted in October of 1979)

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