JUNE 24, 2010

Guest Editorial

Economic devastation of small communities in Northern Idaho
what’s the right thing to do?

By Harvey Neese

Part II

   This is a second article on the proposed take away of the U.S. Forest Service managed, people owned forest lands in four counties: Latah, Benewah, Idaho and Clearwater counties. The economic down turn in small communities would be devastating.

    We should discuss the right thing to do in the proposed Upper Lochsa Land Exchange proposal. The current proposal would trade away most of the people’s owned lands managed by the Forest Service in four northern counties of Idaho. Over 100,000 people who have used these lands for recreation and logging for many decades. They are frustrated at why legislators and officials don’t stop this ill-advised, unacceptable exchange.

   The Forest Service Supervisor should have informed the private buyer that he must do the right thing in the proposed transaction— poll the residents that would be most affected by a public land give away, those living within 50 miles of the proposed land exchange. The survey would ask those most affected by this proposed exchange, if they agreed to give up their public lands to a private entrepreneur to trade for private lands in the remote Upper Lochsa region. I would predict that some 85% to 90% of the people would answer with a resounding NO! That should have been the end of discussion as doing the right thing would save the Forest Service much wasted time and effort. The Forest Service Supervisor at the time did not seem to care what the majority of the people wanted.

   The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has been involved in assisting to exchange these lands, owned partially by the people who would be the most affected by this huge loss. There was no survey of the people most affected by this proposed exchange by the RMEF or the RMEF members in the area affected by the exchange. Did the RMEF do the right thing? The RMEF has been involved in a lot of land issues for the right reasons which have been good for sportsmen and those using the lands for hunting and recreation. However, on this proposed exchange, knowing of the large majority opposition, the RMEF is not doing the right thing.

   What is the right thing to do in regards to the proposed Upper Lochsa Exchange? The right thing to do is for the Forest Service with assistance of the congressional delegation and other legislators on the Sub-Committee for Natural Resources overseeing trades and sales of the people’s lands is to stop the exchange proposal and assist to organize a purchase of the Upper Lochsa Lands. There is considerable work such as tree planting, trimming, waterways, etc. that might qualify under the Stimulus Plan to obtain money for the purchase and rejuvenation work. The RMEF must join in with the majority of the people in striving for a purchase—this is the right thing to do for an organization that requires good public relations and donations for its worthy causes.