[Vision2020] Now's the time to comment on Lochsa land swap
thansen at moscow.com
Wed Dec 9 05:00:54 PST 2015
Let's stop the rape of national forestland in Idaho before it is reduced to a trivia question beginning with the words, "Remember when . . . "
Courtesy of today's (December 9, 2015) Moscow-Pullman Daily News.
Now's the time to comment on Lochsa land swap
Deadline is Friday for Idahoans to let Sen. Risch know what they think about idea
Local environmental groups invited residents opposed to the proposed Upper Lochsa Land Exchange to a last-chance letter-writing party Monday evening.
A room in the Garden Lounge in Moscow was set up with tables, pens, paper, envelopes and information on the deal. The deal is opposed by the Friends of the Clearwater, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition and the Sierra Club's Palouse group, which all hosted the letter-writing session.
There wasn't even a need to supply one's own postage stamp and there was plenty of water and popcorn, but thirsty letter writers were asked to pay for their own beer and coffee.
"I oppose it," said letter-writer Elisabeth Berlinger.
"The Great Old Broads of the Wilderness oppose the exchange vehemently," said Ann Storrar, a member of the group.
The letters were going to be mailed to United States Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho. Risch said any public comments about the land swap need to arrive by Friday to be considered.
"Sen. Risch has claimed neutrality but that he's got a lot to learn," said Brett Haverstick, Friends of the Clearwater's education and outreach director.
Risch hosted a public meeting in Grangeville to hear what people thought about the idea of exchanging 20,000 acres of national forest for 39,000 acres owned by the Western Pacific Timber Co. More than 300 people showed up and most of them were against such a swap.
The timber company wrote draft legislation that calls for the trade, but Risch said he would write his own legislation if he were to take such action.
Most of the public parcels would come from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests near Grangeville and Harpster, both in Idaho County, and include some popular places for hunting, gathering and recreation. Land in Latah County is being considered only as a contingency inclusion in the plan, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The USFS' more public process for deciding what lands would be swapped was stopped in 2013 and by request of Risch, Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Raul Labrador was turned over for a legislative solution. The land appraisals weren't completed so actual value of the sites isn't known.
Sites the timber company wants to dispose of near the Lochsa River headwaters are "badly cut-over," while the potential sites in and near Idaho, Latah, Bonner, Kootenai and Clearwater counties are "highly valued," Haverstick said.
"This legislation goes completely against the public interest," he said. "The money's not the issue - it's the politics."
The exchange as proposed could limit public access - though the timber company has denied this is its intention. The habitat in the Upper Lochsa area also needs restoration, he said.
Haverstick also pointed out the Land and Water Conservation Fund could be a source of money to buy the land in the future. A portion of proceeds from offshore drilling for oil and gas has been used to purchase land on behalf of the American public. It wasn't funded by the U.S. Congress and expired Sept. 30, however.
The timber company isn't "going away," Haverstick added. "A purchase option may be our best and only way to get out of it."
The address to Risch's Boise office is 350 N. Ninth St., Suite 302, Boise, ID, 83702. Send emails to darren_parker at risch.senate.gov, and include grangeville at risch.senate.gov as a second address on the electronic messages, Haverstick advised
Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .
"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
"There's room at the top they are telling you still.
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,
If you want to be like the folks on the hill."
- John Lennon
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