Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, moved to fund the portion of the Clagstone Meadows conservation easement that falls within the state Department of Lands budget; Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, seconded the motion. “This is not a new program,” Johnson said. “The department paid out $887,000 so far in FY16 for Bonnner Lake Firehouse ($100,561) and Bonner Lake South ($786,475). There is a small conservation easement, 7 acres, that will likely go to the Land Board soon, about $92,000, Bonner Lake West. So the total for FY16 is around $979,000.”
The Lands piece of the easement is $5 million in federal funds. Johnson’s motion passed on a 17-3 vote, with just Sens. Sheryl Nuxoll, Steven Thayn and Jim Guthrie dissenting.
Thayn, R-Emmett, asked, “Is there some sense of what the community, in Bonner County, if they’re supportive or – I don’t live up there, so I just ask the question.”
JFAC Co-Chair Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said, “I think there’s been a great deal of discussion in Bonner County over the last six years on the property and the plans for the property. And that discussion’s been ongoing for a number of years. There are many people that are in support of it, there are others that are opposed to it. But there has been an ongoing discussion.”
Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, the House co-chair of JFAC, said, “Senator, I don’t live up there either, but I was deeply, deeply concerned about going against our partners in counties or cities any time we take action. That’s exactly why we’re here today. It is why I took the action I did. Now that has been resolved. Obviously what I thought I knew from them apparently has been pulled back, rescinded. … And the commissioners are no longer opposing. They’re not supporting, I understand. And again, I don’t live there either. But I have no problems now with this going forward, as far as I’m concerned and as far as my committee is, because there is no opposition from the commissioners body that I thought I had before. I did respect that. If that’s any help to you at all.”
Bell was referring to a March 11 letter from two Bonner County commissioners initially expressing opposition to the project and saying they didn’t know about it; the letter, addressed “to whom it may concern,” was distributed to House members by Reps. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay. Yesterday, the commission voted 3-0 to rescind the letter, took public comment on the project, and didn’t take a position on it.
Gibbs then moved to fund the Fish & Game portion of the easement, which consists of $2 million in federal Pittman-Robertson funds to guarantee hunter access, and Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, seconded the motion. The motion passed on a 16-4 vote, with just Thayn, Guthrie, Nuxoll, and Sen. Dean Mortimer dissenting.