Last week the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Vice President Fred Birnbaum speculated in an opinion piece that people are moving to Idaho for freedom.

I believe he’s right.

Citing driver’s license data that indicates people are coming to the Gem State from places like California, Oregon and Washington, Birnbaum suggested the reason they are moving here is because Idaho offers more freedom. Birnbaum noted that Idaho doesn’t force motorcyclists to wear helmets nor does it allow cops to pull over motorists for not wearing seat belts.

Those may very well be reasons people move to Idaho, although I’ve never heard anybody say they moved here because they don’t want to wear a seat belt.

However, I have heard plenty of people say they moved to Idaho for its public lands. Those people revel in the freedom of millions of acres of pristine country to ride, bike, fish, hunt, hike, ski and snowmobile.

Most Americans can only dream of those freedoms. To them, public land is a city park or a nature reserve with overflowing parking lots and manicured lawns. While pleasant, they’re not places that challenge or inspire. They’re not places our Western heritage is based upon.

So it’s no surprise that people are coming to Idaho for freedom. We have a lot of it – deep canyons, powerful rivers, snow-capped peaks, enchanted forests and no “No Trespassing” signs in sight.

These lands and the opportunities they offer draw people to Idaho. They draw businesses here as well. And they should.

People from around the country crave the freedoms we take for granted.

Of course, some politicians don’t appreciate those freedoms. They want our public lands to be sold, transferred or privatized.

Fortunately, Idahoans understand the risks of putting our freedom on the auction block. They understand that our Western heritage is intricately linked to lands we inherited from previous generations of Americans.

They cherish their land. They cherish their opportunities. They cherish their freedom.

Derek Farr

Executive Director, Better Idaho