Commissioners Skip Brandt, Jim Chmelik and James Rockwell continue to push their controversial agenda for in the Lochsa Land Exchange. Given the new focus on old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, Congressional approval for an acre for acre swap would jeopardize approximately 25,700 acres or more of public lands in Idaho County. The decline of beetle infested public lands and rapid spread of wildfires in old growth forests in the west becomes the newest sensation to coerce public support for the swap of public lands in Idaho County. Idaho County Commissioners are beating their ceremonial drums in hopes that the slow monotony of their message for privatization of public lands will be successful.
Though a portion of the Nez Perce National Forest lands originally proposed in Alternative F of the Lochsa Land Exchanged did not pass NEPA and was thrown out, we the public still stand to lose massive acres of public land in our midst, if Congress approves an acre for acre swap. Commissioner Skip Brandt stated in a September 4, 2012 Idaho County Commission meeting that approximately 25,700 of old growth could possibly be negotiated in the acre for acre swap between the forest service and Western Pacific Timber.
All three of the Idaho County Commissioners support the pillage and plunder of natural resources in our federal lands and lobby to achieve that end through support of their pals at Western Pacific Timber. Smoke and mirrors expert James Rockwell “reiterates that he is against the exchange, but if it has to go through, it should be in the Lochsa and be an acre for acre exchange”
Western Pacific Timber has pushed up through its worm holes, new leadership figures to guide the real estate development company toward the promised land. Former Senator Larry Craig has been hired, along with Mark Rey, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Agriculture. Andrew Hawes, legal counsel for WPT and apprentice to former WPT owner Timothy Blixseth, said Craig and Rey “will perform consulting work based on their background.” Hawes said “Rey’s specialty is in moving trades administratively while Craig’s specialty is on the legislative side.” Western Pacific Timber is gambling that Craig and Rey will navigate with expertise through the greasy palms of Washington DC, in hopes of tapping Congressional approval of the acre for acre swap.
Andrew Ottoson of the Idaho County Free Press writes in his September 18, 2012 article: “Either way, the next step for the Lochsa Exchange will be the release of the final analysis of Alternative F, which the Idaho County Commission suggested last March in an effort to prevent a net increase in the amount of public land in Idaho County. Hawes said WPT’s need for outside help arises from both the company’s desire to complete a trade and the company’s need for greater expertise in light of trends in the land trading business. “We want a trade that’s beneficial to our company, but also one that’s acceptable to Idaho County and beneficial to our trading partner, the Forest Service…land trades are becoming increasingly more complicated, especially over the last several years,” he said.
George Prentice of Boise Weekly writes “Former Idaho U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, who limped away from office following a 2007 arrest for lewd conduct, has been hired as a lobbyist for Western Pacific Timber to represent its interests in a controversial land swap in north-central Idaho.”
Mark Rey spent twenty years working for timber industry organizations such as the National Forest Products Association, the American Paper Institute, and the American Forest Resources Alliance. He also served as a Vice President of the American Forest and Paper Association, a leading advocate of logging in national forests.’
Clearwater National Forest project manager Teresa Trulock maintains that despite claims by the Idaho County Commissioners that the Lochsa Land Swap is harming Idaho County economically, the Forest Service’ economic analysis shows that none of the alternatives are harming Idaho County economically. Ms Trulock noted that the Forest Service’s study differs from one performed by University of Idaho research economist Steven Peterson on Idaho County’s behalf. (A Free Press report on the Peterson study is online: http://tinyurl.com/974qgah)
If Larry Craig and Mark Rey are successful in guiding WPT to their preferred result, its likely a Congressional approval for an acre for acre swap would appear under the public radar in the form of a legislative rider or “farm bill”, slipped in quietly, snaking its way into law right under the noses of the general public and taxpaying citizens who enjoy the access to public lands for recreation, wood cutting, hunting and other traditions for the people of Idaho County.
Written by Mary Mangold
Date: October 1, 2012