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Request for controversial rezoning on Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation withdrawn

A controversial request to rezone 84 acres of agricultural land on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation has been withdrawn by the property owner.

Robert Grossglauser wanted to change the zoning to rural residential, which would allow him to build additional homes near Elder Road. But he withdrew the request Thursday after opposition from neighbors and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which has spent $5 million restoring westslope cutthroat trout populations in nearby Lake Creek.

Grossglauser, a builder and developer, said he and his wife wanted seven lots so some of their nine children could build houses on the property. The acreage produced hay but wasn’t valuable farmland, he told a Kootenai County hearings examiner last month.

However, the proposed rezone of agricultural land in southern Kootenai County galvanized nearby property owners, who packed a Jan. 19 hearing to oppose Grossglauser’s request.

Many said they were concerned about the conversion of forest and farmland for housing development. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe shared those concerns, Caj Matheson, the tribe’s Natural Resource Department director, said in an interview this week.

The Lake Creek watershed has been a critical part of the tribe’s cutthroat restoration work over the past three decades, he said.

Cutthroat, a traditional food source for the tribe, are starting to make gains after decades of decline, Matheson said. Adults up to 22 inches long return to Lake Creek to spawn, and the fish are “an invaluable asset to the tribe and local community,” he said.

Jesuit priests wrote about Coeur d’Alene Indians paddling canoes filled with cutthroat, Matheson said. But the population slid into serious decline in the 1980s. Restoration efforts have focused on restoring degraded habitat and controlling invasive northern pike in Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe also owns 190 acres of forested property near the Grossglausers, which is used for hunting by tribal members and some nontribal members.

“This is our homeland,” Matheson said of the Coeur d’Alene reservation. “We believe in development and growth, but in a way that sustains our traditional ways of life. And that includes hunting, fishing and gathering.”

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