PUBLIC LANDS — A public open house meeting is scheduled Tuesday in Grangeville to help the public understand a new proposal in the controversial Upper Lochsa Land Exchange involving national forest and private timberlands in Idaho.
The new proposal to protect timberlands west of Lolo Pass could save jobs for Idaho towns, if its supporters can find a legal way to push it through, according to a story in the Missoulian.
The latest version of the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange draft environmental impact statement would have the U.S. Forest Service make an acre-for-acre swap with Western Pacific Timber Co., all within the boundaries of Idaho County, Idaho. County Commissioner Skip Brandt said that would help his rural communities hang on to their economic base, the Missoulian reports.
But that could violate the Forest Service's requirement to get fair market value for any property it exchanges, the newspaper explains. It prefers an appraised swap that offers one acre of public land for every two acres of the approximately 40,000 acres of Western Pacific Timber property. A different deal could require congressional approval.
The land in question is checkerboarded around U.S. Highway 12 along the Montana-Idaho border. It is popular with snowmobilers and cross-country and backcountry skiers in winter, as well as campers and hunters in summer and fall. It has good habitat for sensitive species such as steelhead and bull trout, lynx and wolverine.
The exchange has been in the works since 2008. If an alternative surfaces from this draft, it could be finalized around fall of 2012.
The open house meeting in Grangeville is set for 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on Tuesday (Nov. 29) in the National Guard Armory.
See an index map showing areas involved in the proposed land exchange.