Have you wondered what’s happening with the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange, the proposal to trade almost 40,000 acres, primarily in Latah, Benewah, Clearwater and Idaho counties, to Western Pacific Timber (WPT) for 40,000 acres of cut-over checkerboard land up the Lochsa? Opposition to this exchange started as a grassroots effort in Latah and Benewah counties late in 2008 and early 2009 after retired Forest Service employees brought it to the public’s attention.
The focus shifted to Idaho County late in 2011 after their commissioners proposed an acre-for-acre exchange within Idaho County. This is not legal (the Forest Service must do a value-for value exchange) but it can be done through congressional action. The commissioners recommended highly used recreational and grazing lands in their county, incurring the wrath of many taxpayers. A Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) evaluating this proposal brought the total of lands being considered up to approximately 60,000 acres. In the process, both the BLM and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation pulled their support. Opposition coalesced with a public face at stoptheswap.net.
Clearwater Supervisor Rick Brazell is scheduled to release the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision by the end of 2013.
In 2012, Western Pacific hired ex-Senator Larry Craig and ex-USDA Chief of Staff Mark Rey to lobby for their interests in Washington, D.C. The congressional delegation has been involved in the process, recommending the Forest Service assessment of the Idaho County commissioners’ alternative. It seems that no matter what the final Forest Service decision may be, congressional action is possible. Objections should be directed to our congressional delegation.
Cheryl D Halverson