GRANGEVILLE – In spite of assurances that listing the Lochsa River corridor in the National Register of Historic Places would not negatively affect the public, a large, vocal group of people at a meeting here Wednesday night wasn’t buying it.
“This designation will give these agencies enforcement teeth,” said one angry person in a crowd of about 80 people gathered at the Super 8 Motel. “You can’t promise what’s going to happen.”
Another person called for a show of hands for how many people were against the designation, and nearly every hand in the crowd shot up.
Representatives of the Idaho State Historical Preservation Office at Boise reviewed for the crowd the process for nominating a site for historical designation and how people can weigh in with their comments.
A previous communication from the office said that comments at the Grangeville meeting would be forwarded to the Idaho State Historic Sites Review Board when it meets in Sandpoint on Sept. 22. After going over the comments and other documentation, the board will forward a recommendation to the National Park Service, which will determine whether to move forward with the listing.
But because of the magnitude of concern regarding the Lochsa proposal, Tricia Canaday of the historical society said the issue has been deferred to the spring meeting of the review board, tentatively scheduled in March.
Nakia Williamson, director of cultural resources for the Nez Perce Tribe, which nominated the corridor, explained that there are numerous cultural sites important to the tribe and its more than 1,000 years of using trails in the area.
“We wanted to add our narrative and our own voice to fit into the values with this broader landscape and how these sites are connected to us,” Williamson said.
It is important to “being able to tell our narrative about what this landscape means to the Nez Perce people.”
Several people who oppose the designation said they respect the tribe’s position, but don’t trust that a designation wouldn’t affect private landowners, travel, recreation and commerce.
“What are you getting out of this?” Jennifer Garcia, a landowner in the corridor, asked Williamson. “And how does that impact us as property owners? What does that mean?”
Williamson said the tribe could not dictate what property owners did with their own land.
“We don’t have the ability to fence things off,” he said.
Mary Hasenoehrl, president of the Port of Lewiston, read a statement opposing the designation of the Lochsa corridor.
“We believe the designation will further impede commerce on U.S. Highway 12,” Hasenoehrl said.
“The roadway was constructed to allow for the efficient transportation of commerce. A National Historical designation may result in continued loss of use.”
Floyd Whitley, president of the Idaho County Historical Society and state chairman of the Constitution Party of Idaho, said the proposed designation adds layers of unnecessary bureaucracy that would make the area “ripe for abuse by federal agencies.”
Terry Jackson, who said he owns eight parcels along the river corridor, questioned why he has only one vote in determining whether to go ahead with the designation.
Others in the crowd told the historical society representatives that because the corridor is federally managed public land, “everybody in Idaho should have a vote. It is not your land to give away. It is our land.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day's top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter