JUNE 17, 2010

Guest Editorial

Forest Service lands in four Northern Idaho
counties to be traded away—unless we stop it!

By Harvey Neese

Part I

   Four northern Idaho counties could lose most, if not all, of the U.S. Forest Service managed, people owned lands to private interests if we the people don’t stop it. The main counties are: Latah, Clearwater, Benewah and Idaho counties. The Forest Service lands being discussed for trading amount to some 28,000 acres. These are prime forests and wildlife habitat which previously was habitat for the largest elk herd in the world. The elk are disappearing due to mismanagement and now the possible loss of much of their habitat that has nurtured elk and deer populations for centuries.

   At this time, there is a proposed exchange or trade of the Forest Service lands in the four counties in northern Idaho for heavily cut over timber lands in a remote section of the Upper Lochsa area owned by a private entrepreneur. The private lands in the Upper Lochsa, proposed to be traded for the lands in the four counties, are situated like a checker board with alternate sections between the Forest Service and private entrepreneur owned lands which makes management of these lands difficult. Many people, who are aware of this ill-advised proposed exchange, support the Forest Service in purchasing the 39,000 acres in the Lochsa to manage the lands for the future. A number of groups of people are working to this end. Few, if any, residents inside these counties and outside are promoting this exchange.

   The Forest Service has advanced the exchange proposal to this point with minimal attention paid to the majority of the people affected. There are over 100,000 nearby residents in northern Idaho and Eastern Washington who use these public lands for recreation as hunting, fishing, observing wildlife, mushroom and huckleberry picking and logging. And there are many more that come to the area because of the people owned lands.

   There is a sizable group of people within the exchange area who are fighting this exchange proposal non-stop. They have met with local and state officials and federal legislators to obtain their support to purchase the Lochsa Lands and not trade away the prime forest lands of this area.

   It should be mentioned that the current Forest Service Supervisor for the Nez Perce and Clearwater Forests, Mr. Rick Brazell, was not in this position when this very bad decision was initiated by the Forest Service to pursue this exchange with little input from the people. However, the problem is now in the hands of the current Supervisor and numerous people and groups affected by this proposed exchange have expressed their opposition to him and the Forest Service personally. We the people are speaking and government officials should listen to the majority in our democratic society—it is easy to see that a huge majority of people directly affected by this loss of public lands strongly oppose this ill-advised trade.

   The people are waiting anxiously for federal legislators to speak publicly words we hear so seldom these days: I will support what the majority of Idahoans wantand the public choice is purchase.

   This is the American way developed by the Founding Fathers. Federal legislative aides have listened and discussed this issue with we the people in opposition many times. State legislators from this area have been especially helpful in support, discussions, attending meetings and assisting to formulate plans to go forward. We the people thank them.