Although property owners are worried, the National Park Service says it is not trying to grab land for the Nez Perce National Historical Park.
“It’s not at all like some people think it is,” park Superintendent Frank Walker said of a draft management plan and environmental impact statement for 38 historic sites in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana.
“We’re just interested in the longterm protection of these nationally significant locations,” he said. “From our standpoint, there doesn’t have to be any impact on private landowners.”
But residents such as Carolyn Lage of Weippe say they are worried there is more to the plan. Her family owns 40 acres within the proposed boundary of the Weippe Prairie historical site.
“I think our major concern is that we’re going to lose some of the rights we have to our property,” she said, adding there already is a turnout and sign describing the site and that is enough.
Walker said he started hearing complaints after mailing an Oct. 15 letter to property owners. Besides announcing public meetings and the impact statement, it also announced “proposed boundaries” around the sites.
He said the boundaries do not entail buying or changing the uses of the land, and do not diminish property rights there.
Only five of the park’s established historic sites are federally owned. The remaining 33 are held privately or by other agencies.
The boundaries are only to identify places where there is evidence of the Nez Perce Indians, Lewis and Clark expedition or other activities. The bicentennial of the expedition is eight years off, and the Park Service wants to show the public where history took place, Walker said.
The law establishing the park authorizes protecting sites that have historical importance, relating to the fur trade, missionaries, miners and other groups.
Idaho public meetings on the draft management plan are scheduled through this month.