Meeting: There will be a public meeting at Salmon River High School Multipurpose Room Monday Dec 12 at 7pm. Representatives from the National Association of Forest Service Retirees and Friends of the Palouse Ranger District.
1. The Forest Service wants to aquire a checkerboard of almost $40k acres for a 100,000 total area along the Lochsa to ease in more efficient managment of lands.
2. Western Pacific Timber want to sell or trade their 39,371 acres of harvested land they bought from Plum Creek for timbered land to log.
3. Idaho County Commissioners are concerned about taking 40k acres of private land off the tax rolls which they have valued at $100k which they value at two teachers each year.
“I think they should keep it like it is.” Was the comment from long time Riggins resident, Ace Barton in regard to the land trade proposed by the Forest Service, Idaho County Commissioners and Western Pacific Timber.
He is not alone. The majority of Idaho County residents that have chosen to voice their opinions regarding the Lochsa Land Swap the Forest Service are adamant about choosing the Plan A option of “No Action.” is planning to make with Western Pacific Timber. the company that purchased approximately 39,371 acres from Plum Creek in 2005.
They bought the land specifically to trade for timbered land. Why did Plum Creek sell it to Western Pacific Timber? According to Teresa Trulock, “the exchange process [with the Forest Service] is to long and too arduous.”
Since 1997, the Forest Service has made concerted efforts to obtain blocks of checkerboards to improve efficiency in management of the parcels.
The checkerboard land pattern dates back to the 1860s under the Lincoln Administration. Lincoln wanted a route from East to West. The idea with blocking up the land was to encourage the railroad by providing rail-side timber for ties and to allow them to sell the land if they need to fund the line.
The ironic thing is, there is no railroad along Highway 12 where this land swap is desired. But, according to Trulock, “there was no default in that legislation.”
What about Emminent Domain?
The SDEIS states that some people have suggested that the government just take the land. But Trulock says there as to be a reason, such as a highway that has to be built. Emminent Domain can only happen ‘to provide the greatest good to the greatest number of people’” she said. “You can’t just take it because you want to,” and she added, “the Forest Service rarely uses it [eminient domain].”
According to Teresa Trulock, project manager of the Lochsa Land trade, neither is Western Pacific Timber interested in splitting the land in half and taking one side or the other. Repeatedly, WPT has said, “We are in the timber business.” In the Bugle article, Disney says that if a trade isn’t worked out, WPT will have to sell off the land and mentions “some nice lake properties.” Later in the article, Disney explains that WPT would be open to a “combination of trade and compensation” and that WPT “has agreed to contribute $500,000 toward the restoration of the upper Lochsa as part of the exchange.”
There are six different options of the plan. Plan A is No Action. This is the plan that is favored by most residents. “Plan A is still a viable option,” commented Trulock.
On hand at the open house in Riggins were the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Spokesmen for the group said that RMEF will have an opinion out later, according to RMEF representatives “Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is still in the process of analyzing the options that are out on the table. We are still getting values on resources.” he said.
However, upon the table of the RMEF, were handouts of the recent “Bugle” article, written by Idaho outdoor writer, Steve Stuebner. In which Stuebner’s second sentence says “Now we have a chance to protect 39,000 acres of classic elk country and restore a wild treasure.”
If the only thing at stake were a herd of elk along the Lochsa, it would be a no-brainer. But it involves Idaho County elk herds and trading recreational areas of local residents.
The trading of Idaho County land was not at stake during the March article by Stuebner. At that time, the idea was to trade the acres within Idaho, but around the Palouse area. That is how Friends of the Palouse Ranger District were formed.
“Stay outta my back yard,” was the sentiment from John Pottenger of Riggins. He is referring to unit 18, near Cow Creek. Bill Bieren explained that those acres, 15 years ago, were hunted out and that it has taken the past 15 years of intense management to renew the wildlife in the area and make it one of the best areas to hunt currently. “To turn it over to private sector would be shame, he said.
The biggest concern is not the acquisition of 40,000 acres of the checkerboard land along the Lochsa River between Idaho and Montana, but that if the Federal Government takes the land, it removes those acres from the private tax roles in Idaho County.
The Idaho County Commissioners are wary of loosing what they have said to be somewhere around $100,000 each year. To solve the problem, the commissioners asked that the land traded remain in Idaho County.
The land offered to be traded. The lands within Idaho County are timbered, recreational land that ranchers lease, hunters hunt, mushroom pickers pick and fireplace owners cut their wood.
According to Trulock, Western Pacific has agreed to keep the leases intact for ten years, after that they can’t guarantee anything.