The Pacific Railway Acts of the 1800s resulted in land given to railroad companies to promote settlement. This included the Upper Lochsa River area. When settlement didn’t occur, instead of the lands being returned to the public, railroad barons sold it to timber companies. In the 1900s, Plum Creek clear-cut the private parcels in the Upper Lochsa.
In 2005, Western Pacific Timber purchased the lands. In 2008, the U.S. Forest Service signed a memorandum of understanding to work out a land trade. Between 2008 and 2013, the public overwhelmingly opposed various land exchange proposals.
In 2013, the Idaho delegation instructed the Forest Service to cease the administrative process. Western Pacific Timber was then permitted to draft legislation to make the exchange happen. Last week, 300 people turned out for a meeting in Grangeville and received copies of the legislation. The “neutral” Sen. Jim Risch was in attendance. Once again, the public fiercely opposed an exchange of any kind.
Stuck in the middle of this mess is the public. The corporations, the bureaucracies and the politicians are holding us hostage. It’s time to hit the escape hatch. A purchase option will protect the people and the land. Let’s do it.