December 1, 1996 in Idaho

Swap Called Good For All Concerned Advantages Seen For Wildlife, Public And Lumber Company

Susan Drumheller The Associated Press Contributed Staff writer
 

Wildlife will get a safe haven, J.D. Lumber Co. will get almost 300 acres of timber, and the public will get more shoreline on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

That’s the deal under a land swap between the Bureau of Land Management and J.D. Lumber that’s just waiting for the final touches.

The swap would turn over a 260-acre parcel of the lumber company property along Loffs Bay to the BLM. In return, the company will get almost 300 acres of timber in North Idaho.

The biggest tract is about 260 acres on the southeast slopes of Rathdrum Mountain, according to Eric Thomson, BLM area manager.

What the public gets is 1,500 to 2,000 feet of waterfront in Loffs Bay, a few miles south of Mica Bay on the lake’s west side. The land is next to the existing Idaho Fish and Game Department boat launch and docks, which the BLM plans to help improve.

“We like it and want to improve it because it provides additional access to folks from that direction, the Spokane Valley and Palouse,” said Sandy Emerson, chairman of the Kootenai County Waterways Committee. “It relieves pressure on the Third Street ramp.”

In addition to the 260 acres from the lumber company, the BLM already purchased an adjacent 120 acres south of Loffs Bay. Eventually the property - much of it terraced meadows and thinned timber - could be developed for camping, picnic sites or other recreational uses.

“It’s great topography for camping,” Emerson said.

Thomson emphasized the property’s importance for wildlife. Much of the waterfront is a marshy area that provides habitat for waterfowl, he said. Big game, too, also frequent the area.

“It’s very important for the wildlife because the uplands has been turned to agriculture,” Thomson said.

The exchange, whose approval merely awaits a land appraisal, is the latest in a number of deals the BLM has brokered in the last few years to provide more public lake access and pockets of wildlife sanctuaries.

Now, only about 2.3 percent of the shoreline is accessible to the public.

For instance, the BLM now owns the 12 acres of waterfront property in Cougar Bay that neighbors fought to save from housing development. The agency also recently gained ownership of a portion of Blackwell Island, where it plans to install a boat launch.

In addition, the agency acquired property two years ago in Blue Creek Bay, an area where bald eagles nest and feed. A boat launch and other public facilities are a possibility there, too.

Sometimes the BLM swaps timberland to get recreational property. Sometimes it pays outright from a fund called the “Idaho Lands Project,” which Congress allocates annually to compensate the BLM for land it lost in a big interstate trade.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Susan Drumheller Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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