Friday, September 10, 2004

Simpson releases draft of BWC wilderness bill

Details include public lands identified for transfer to Stanley, Custer County

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By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

In the most specific draft yet of his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, outlined 162 acres of public lands in and around Stanley that would be given to the city and to Custer County for development.

The draft bill, released on Thursday, Sept. 9, will be introduced to Congress “in the next couple of weeks,” said Lindsay Slater, Simpson’s chief of staff.

“We want people to look at this and get back to us,” he said. “We’re shooting for two weeks from now, but it might be sooner, but not until people have had the chance to at least comment.”

The 36-page bill includes specifics for public land gifts to Stanley, but does not include precise information about gifts to Custer County and the state of Idaho. Slater said they would total less than 1,000 acres.

The draft includes proposed designation of more than 200,000 acres of wilderness in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains. It includes financial allocations for Custer County and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. It includes designation of motorized and mechanized trail corridors and the establishment of a Boulder-White Cloud Management Area.

The draft also proposes to release wilderness study areas not included in the new wilderness. It proposes to extend outfitter and guide permits in the mountain ranges for 10 years. It establishes a grazing permit buyout program for ranchers who hold allotments inside the wilderness area.

“We’ve got a draft bill that comes close to representing the congressman’s intentions that each user group in the Boulder-White Clouds gets a win,” Slater said.

But, the draft bill conspicuously lacks specifics in key areas.

Land conveyances from the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Challis National Forests to Custer County are not described, even in general terms. A sum of money that would be given to Custer County is not specified. The draft does not elaborate on the cost of the proposed grazing permit buyout program.

Slater said those details and others will be released in the next few weeks before the bill is introduced to Congress.

But new information is available about proposed land conveyances in and around Stanley.

On a large, mostly sage-covered bench north of Stanley, 86 acres, including a road that covers 15 acres, would be conveyed to Custer County for development of up to 10 homes. The homes would be limited to 3,500 square feet of floor area each and be allowed to be 26-feet-tall.

In a lowland meadow between upper and lower Stanley, 68 acres would be conveyed to Stanley for construction of affordable housing or other public uses like a park, community center or school.

Approximately 8 acres adjoining the western boundary of Stanley would be transferred to the city for construction of up to four homes.

The new construction, however, would be governed by design-review guidelines implemented using deed restrictions. The homes on the 86-acre bench would be limited to

3,500 square feet and would be permitted to be 26 feet high. They would not be allowed to be seen from nearby valley highways.

Homes on the 8 acres west of Stanley would be limited to 3,000 square feet and 22-feet in height. In all cases, the criteria call for “Western, ranch-style” architecture with rectangular or square windows. Siding is limited to log, log siding, rough-sawn lumber or board and batten wood substitutes.

“From a scenic standpoint, and the public’s concern about that, these are about as unimpactful as you could possibly imagine,” said Bob Hayes, executive director of the Sawtooth Society.

Hayes said his organization did not embrace the concept of land transfers within the SNRA, but decided that if they were going to occur anyway, they would rather play a role in helping them to be sensitive.

The Sawtooth Society worked with Stanley city leaders and the U.S. Forest Service over the last two months to help identify the properties.

“If in fact federal land is going to be transferred as a result of the passage of this bill, then we think this property that’s been identified is about the best,” Hayes said.

Simpson’s draft bill is available on the Internet at www.house.gov/simpson/leg_top.shtml.




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