Communities across the State of Idaho are dealing with a serious and threatening issue that has inflamed taxpaying citizens that hail from south from Hailey, ID and all the way north to Tensed, ID and beyond. Many of these citizens have served this great state in a number of high ranking capacities over the years and others currently serve in the public sector. What this suggests is that the opposition to the Lochsa Land Exchange is composed of many individuals who did not achieve success through a lack of professional criteria, education, intuition and common sense.
Other less distinguished taxpaying citizens are worried, intimidated and confused by the Lochsa Land Exchange and the controversy swirling like a dust devil across the State of Idaho.
Some citizens respond by simply “punching the off button” from their consciousness of the entire issue, turning their backs on the whole Lochsa Land Exchange ordeal. One can understand this behavior in lieu of struggles in the economy, job challenges and the general theme of a debt infused world perched on financial disaster.
Privatizing public lands is a theme across the west today and in many cases, the public land is managed by a nature conservancy or other responsible entity, sensitive habitats are protected, and the new stewards of the land become a win win for all.
It seems the big spuds and small potatoes involved in a push for the swap outlined by the SDEIS and Alternative F have ignored one basic principle:
Are all the many media articles that tell the story of Timothy Blixseth and Western Pacific Timber just spinning fairy tales? In addition to the Turks and Caicos suit filed against prominent members of WPT, there appears a trail of deception, greed, and many lawsuits filed by states such as Montana to oust these slugs.
In the recent release of a Supplement Environmental Impact Statement to address Idaho County Commissioner proposal for the Lochsa Land Exchange, Western Pacific Timber would swap 38000 acres of predominantly timber harvested lands in the Upper Lochsa Watershed to the Forest Service, in an acre for acre exchange of valuable timbered acres closest to Grangeville and Riggins. The proposed swap of timbered acres gained by Western Pacific Timber is identified as Alternative F, which was released in mid November by the Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell and his staff. Concerned citizens were provided a 60 day commenting period to express opinions, concerns, and opposition or support, on this swap, as well as an extension of the commenting period to February 15, 2012.
526 Million Board Feet of Prime Harvestable Timber is the GRAND PRIZE in Alternative F.
As controversial issues go, there are many players involved, some supporting the swap and a large majority of others vehemently opposing Alternative F. There is a huge opposition network organized by ranking members of communities all over Idaho, including Friends of the Palouse Ranger District and Retired Forest Service Supervisors, fighting hard the battle for NO ACTION.
The No Action Alternative A had been addressed by an earlier Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Two days before the extended commenting period ended on March 10, 2011, Idaho County Commissioners, faced with losing valuable “production base” over the life of the privately held acreage in the Upper Lochsa Watershed, submitted their comments and proposal, outlining harm to the county. Forest Service listened, participated and thereby put into motion the new Alternative F.
Subsequent NEPA guidelines resulted in throwing out the portion west of Slate Creek down to Rapid River commonly known as The Island. Also portions of Fish Creek were removed from consideration as well, not being in alignment with NEPA guidelines.
It’s apparent economic data was evaluated in the event of a swap, but other impacts and considerations have been neglected and even ignored. One question has been asked by citizens over and over:
Why has the Idaho County Commission to include Commissioner Skip Brandt, James Rockwell and Jim Chmelik, as well as an expanded circle of influential political and business leadership, extended an invitation to Western Pacific Timber whose Boss seems to exhibit less than honorable intentions in other parts of the west, to enter the gates of our paradise??? Commissioner Skipper Brandt shared with me that its not his job to judge character.
MORAL OBLIGATION is being acutely ignored by all supporters of Alternative F. If the Record of Decision includes some part of the remaining 25,700 acres still included in Alternative F, we can only hope that Western Pacific Timber does not simply harvest and run, make promises on responsible forest practices, and then betray all agreements and Idaho County as a whole, in years to come, sell the land off to private land owners who put up fences and no-trespassing signs. After all, there is evidence that WPT more motivated to file lawsuits to delay through litigation, rather than to pay tax bills. Note the case on file at the Idaho Repository below:
|1 Cases Found.|
|Idaho State Tax Commission vs. Timothy Blixseth|
|Case:||CV-OC-2010-15109||District||Filed:||07/30/2010||Subtype:||Other Claims||Judge:||Darla S. Williamson||Status:||Closed 03/02/2011|
|Plaintiffs:||Idaho State Tax Commission|
Did Timothy Blixseth ever PAY THE TAX BILL? or was there simply a settlement in the lawsuit, so as to put Timothy Blixseth in good standing with the State of Idaho so that he could be involved in the Lochsa Land Exchange on a federal land swap? Hmmm?
Now that we’re situated toward the fall season of 2012 we’re having fun sorting out the new developments. Promoters of Alternative F are pushing their agenda through any worm hole possible to try to win the final and preferred outcome. In particular, current District 3 Commissioner Jim Chmelik, whose term is up for renewal on November 6, seems to think about privatization of public lands, day and night, week after month. Commissioner Chmelik recently told Lewiston Tribune that we need to utilize the natural resources from the public lands now (TRANSLATE: harvest timber for mills to be shipped out of the US).
Just how many local jobs does Jim Chmelik think this is going to bring to the citizens of Idaho County. Department of Lands seemed to use mostly loggers from out of Idaho County while they are pillaging the timber in Service Flats, as witnessed by residents who have seen the out-of-state and non-Idaho-County license plates.
Larry Craig, former Senator from Idaho (who comes along with his own version of baggage) and Mark Rey, a former deputy for the Forest Supervisor in Washington DC, have been hired by Western Pacific to lobby Congress to achieve the a state of nirvana for all those politicians and local Idaho County Commissioners who support Alternative F in the Lochsa Land Exchange.
A further bit of evidence that WPT means business: Mark Rey was Larry Craig’s Chief of Staff in Craig’s early days as Senator. In the Bush Administration, Larry Craig recommended Mark Rey for the appointment of Undersecretary of the USDA, overseeing the Forest Service (that puts him above the USFS Chief). Rey’s connection to Plum Creek is documentable. [Plum Creek is the previous owner of the Lochsa Land who sold the timber harvested land to Western Pacific Timber. Western Pacific Timber said they would GLADLY enter into a land swap deal with the Forest Service, a transaction Plum Creek did not desire]
Watch for these WPT lobbyists to work the DC racket in an effort to pass legislation in the form of a sneaky farm bill – to get the Congressional approval for an acre for acre swap. If they are successful, Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell will be taken out of the loop and his Record of Decision on the Lochsa Land Exchange will no longer hold any merit or validity.
We’ll see what happens in this continuing saga. In the meantime, we’re all voting at the polls and we’ve got one candidate for District 3 Commissioner who opposes the Alternative F land swap. Make your vote count. Vote Jim Rehder for District 3 Idaho County Commission for leadership, balance, sincerity and integrity on ALL THE ISSUES relating to our local County administration. Check the voting history of current commissioners in 2012 to see the monopoly of our current wise guys.