Letters to the editor from this week's Chronicle:

What Does the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange Mean to Idaho County?

Folks, here is what we have before us. Western Pacific Timber http://wptimber.com/is the largest private property owner in Idaho County with holdings that comprise over 1/5 of Idaho County’s private timberland. WPT, in an exchange with the USFS, is in a position to trade almost 40,000 acres of land in the Upper Lochsa for the same amount of acres of heavy timbered lands in the vicinity of our existing sawmills. You want jobs? Here it is! Bennett/ Shearer/ Idaho Forest Group owns only about 10,000 acres of land in Idaho County, so imagine what 40,000 acres managed under the Idaho Forest Practices Act would do for the timber industry (loggers, truck drivers, sawmill employees) in Idaho County. Also imagine what that would do for the other local businesses (restaurants, bars, car dealers). This could be huge ‘if’ you want to see more local timber jobs.
Additionally, WPT has agreed to tie the lands up in recreation/ conservation easements into perpetuity. No matter who owns the land in the future, it would have to be sold with the same easements. This means that there will be NO SUBDIVISION DEVELOPMENT allowed on these acres, and the citizens would be able to continue to recreate (hunt, pick berries and mushrooms, snowmobile, ride ATV’s) as they have always done on the 40,000 acres.
Last Wednesday, the USFS released their Clearwater Forest Travel Plan which removes over 200 miles of roads and trails from motorized access on the Clearwater National  Forest. The Nez Perce National Forest travel plan is expected to be released later this summer, locking up even more areas on the Nez Perce Forest. The easements proposed on these private acres would be forever; not influenced by the desires of the radical left.
There is a lot of misinformation being circulated, so let me address some of the misinformation. The Idaho County Alternative is contingent on the following conditions: 1)WPT paying the Federal Government the difference in the appraised value; 2)WPT guarantees to continue the current grazing and outfitter leases; and 3) WPT agrees to the recreation /conservation easements (these easements have to be concrete enough that the easements would not be impacted by a change in ownership).
The left/ opposition is trying to paint a picture that we are better off by nationalizing more private lands because the Federal Government will pay us more (via SRS and PILT funding) than we would get in taxes. This proposal suggests that we should rely on a welfare check from the Federal Government and ignore job creation. These folks apparently do not recognize that the Federal Government is over spent. The handouts cannot continue as they have in the past. America has to get back to work and the one industry that we have in the Clearwater Basin is timber. Recreation is great, but in a down economy, we need to start producing if we are going to climb out.
If we are not successful in guiding this exchange to get us back into the woods and to keep our tax base whole, Idaho County is going to be in a world of hurt. The USFS will either exchange most or all of the acres outside Idaho County or if an exchange does not take place, a conservation group will step up (just like they did across the border in Montana), purchase the acres, and then deed it to the USFS, thus removing it from the Idaho County tax rolls to the sum of nearly$100,000. This year it was $92,193 which breaks down to $27,172 for fire suppression funds, $4,777 for hospital, $27,740 for the county, and $32,503 for District 244. These funds would be gone forever and the burden of filling the gap created would fall on the backs of the remaining taxpayers.
This loss is in addition to the current expected loss of Secure Rural Schools funding. Idaho County expects to lose 54% of the Road and Bridge monies and School District 244 will lose over $1.2 million dollars. A loss of this magnitude cannot be absorbed and will most likely force District 244 (and other Idaho County school districts) to run a levy that would be double that of last year.
I can't believe local residents are joining forces with radical environmentalistS like Sun Valley's Scott Phillips (Sierra Club, Earth Justice, Western Watersheds Project), Gary MacFarlane (Friends of the Clearwater), etc. who don't care about our jobs and want no one in the forests at all.
To see who’s who and what these groups are saying look at http://idaho.sierraclub.org/sawtooth/whoweare.html, http://www.fseee.org/news/northern and http://www.friendsoftheclearwater.org/
With the help of our Congressional delegation we can make this work.  Just as wolves were delisted in response to the efforts of Idaho County citizens, so can our plea to protect our tax base and create jobs be heard. However, it is time for the local working class to get involved. Do we want to send a message that logging and timber jobs are no longer desired in Idaho County? That logging is devastating to the county’s landscape? 
Or, shall we call on our common roots and let folks know that we have what it takes to stand on our feet and work for and with the natural resources we’ve been given?  The choice is clear—if only we will follow that choice by action. 
Idaho County Commissioner
Skip Brandt

Cottonwood, Idaho 83522


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