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Much Credit Is Due The Late Ken Kohli

If he were alive today, Ken Kohli would be smiling.

After five years of intense negotiations, Marc Brinkmeyer, owner of Riley Creek Lumber Co., and the U.S. Forest Service have worked out a land swap that will save an ancient stand of red cedars at Upper Priest Lake.

Before his death in a 1996 plane crash, Kohli had worked behind the scenes to preserve this breathtaking grove. In September 1995, when the deal seemed to be off, the personable timber industry spokesman said: “Anybody with two eyes, over the age of 6, would have to realize this is an ecologically unique place. It’s also very accessible. Most people in the industry would say that’s the kind of place that should be set aside.”

He was right. But common sense sometimes takes a back seat when egos, jobs, bureaucracy and historic animosity between timber interests and environmentalists come into play. Brinkmeyer didn’t want to be known as the one who leveled the grove but did want a return on his investment. Environmentalists felt he was getting too much in return - 2,800 acres elsewhere. And federal regulations rendered the Forest Service inflexible in negotiations.

Fortunately, the uneasy coalition of timber interests and environmentalists that Kohli helped form held together. Dave Wright, supervisor of the Panhandle National Forests, and Brinkmeyer persisted. As a result, a preserve that the Nature Conservancy considers a national treasure will be around deep into the next millennium. Future generations still will enjoy the massive trees, wetlands and animals that coexist on the 520 acres. It’d be nice if they remembered Ken Kohli, too.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board