A European-style hunting club wants to scoop up 580 acres of Idaho land.
Blixt & Co., a company that specializes in bringing the English tradition of driven pheasant and partridge shooting to America is proposing an exclusive lease on public land managed by the state of Idaho.
If successful, the lease would effectively bar access to the 580 acres of state land for sportsman and recreationists.
Blixt was founded in 2008 by Lars and Jennifer Magnusson, to “produce authentic Driven Shooting in America” through a “standard of tradition, etiquette, and excellence that require no exaggeration” according to the company’s website.
This standard of tradition includes the recommendation that guests wear tweeds, wools, breeks, long socks and a field coat in the traditional style. Camo and blaze orange are specifically forbidden.
At the hunting lodge, guests can expect the services of a butler and a head chef. In the field and after a long day of shooting, lunch with tea and cocktails will be served under a safari tent in a “glorious wooded grove.”
Driven shooting involves a team of “beaters” driving previously stocked birds towards a line of eight shooters and dog handlers.
Because the birds are farm raised and stocked in the field prior to the shoot, there are no bag limits and guests can expect up to six drives a day to get their fill of shooting.
At the end of the day, the mass of birds are often arranged in intrinsic patterns to commemorate the success of the hunt.
This style of shooting has been extremely popular across Europe by landed gentry since the 18th century, though never really gained a foothold in the U.S which operates under a completely different model of wildlife management.
Blixt & Co. already owns over 3,000 acres in the state, but according to emails sent from the Magnusson’s to the Idaho Department of Lands, they want to pursue a lease for exclusive rights on a 580-acre parcel of public land that is managed by the state as part of its endowment lands program.
The fact that the 580 acres are endowment lands makes it possible for the public land to be leased to private entities while at the same time barring access to citizens of the state. Endowment lands were granted at the time of statehood to be used as profit generators for funding schools, typically through the leasing or outright sale of the land for timber harvesting or mineral extraction. Because of the constitutional mandate to generate a profit from the land, the state can approve the Blixt proposal reguardless of opposition from sportsman and other citizen groups.
And there has been opposition. “A lot of sportsmen in Idaho are not big landowners, ” said Michael Gibson, Trout Unlimited Field Coordinator in Idaho for the Sportsman’s Conservation Project in an interview. “Access to public lands is what we use to pursue our passion—hunting and fishing. To be shut out of that would be devastating.”
If the proposal goes through, the state could earn as much as $3,000 to $10,000 per year to help fund public schools. While on the surface that sounds like a good deal, it should be noted that as of 2011, Blixt was charging $4,000 per day to each individual guest for the privilege to hunt.
While I don’t live in Idaho, I would guess most of its residents don’t have the 12 grand to go on a three-day pheasant hunt on land that they may otherwise be able to hunt for free had it stayed under public control.
In an attempt to push the State of Idaho away from granting the lease, Gibson helped craft a resolution to stop Blixt. The resolution went before the Idaho House of Representatives Resource and Conservation Committee on March 15 and the committee unanimously agreed to send it to the House floor.
The passing of the resolution wouldn’t stop the State Land Board from leasing the land to Blixt, as its not an actual law, but would show the State Land Board that the House and the general public are against this instance of outside entities taking exclusive control of public land.
Leasing of public land for profit to private entities is no new thing under the sun; endowment lands across the U.S. are set aside for that very reason.
There are a few unique aspects of this proposal however that no doubt stick in the craw of sportsman and conservationists, specifically the clothing requirements.
Most hunters don’t tend to care to much about what the other guy wants to wear in the woods, but in this case the old fashioned European clothes and the pomp and circumstance of the hunt stinks of the European elitism found in the old world practice of the rich few owning the countries wildlife.
The ownership of wildlife by the elite was one of the things the founders of the United States left behind when they came to the shores of the New World, and goes against the precept’s of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, the foundation of which was built on the belief that wildlife belongs to all citizens, regardless of how much money a person had in their pockets or what wrung of the social ladder they were born into.
“The people who are in support of this proposal are the people who stand to make money,” Gibson said in an interview. “I don’t see a lot of sportsmen in Idaho as being the tweed-jacket-and-knicker-wearing kind of guys. I don’t think the majority of sportsmen in Idaho want to see their public lands closed off for English driven shooting in tweed.”