New acre-for-acre version of proposed 40,000-acre Idaho land swap between Western Pacific Timber and U.S. Forest Service could help area's forest products economy, but might need congressional approval
November 29, 2011
– The proposed Upper Lochsa timberland swap in north central Idaho between the U.S. Forest Service and Western Pacific Timber Llc has a new acre-for-acre version that, if passed, could keep the area's forest products economy working, the Missoulian reported Nov. 25.
However, the proposed swap could violate Forest Service requirements for fair-market-value swaps based on one acre of public land for every two acres of the company's approximately 40,000 acres. Congressional approval may be needed to conclude the deal.
The latest draft environmental impact statement (EIS) of the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange affects land in the state's Idaho County, the Missoulian reported.
An acre-for-acre swap with the Portland, Oregon-based company would clean up the checkerboard pattern of public land and make it easier for the Forest Service to manage timber resources, said Kamiah Ranger District project manager Teresa Trulock. The county also lacks the financial resources to manage additional public lands, according to Trulock.
County Commissioner Skip Brandt added that the proposed swap would allow the area's sawmills to access to enough marketable timber to save 128 jobs. Putting the extra land into public ownership could cost the county up to US$100,000 in taxes, said Brandt.
The proposed land exchange has been under discussion with Western Pacific for three years, although the Forest Service had made approaches about a decade ago to previous owner Plum Creek Timber Co., according to Trulock, who said the Seattle-based landowner was not interested at that time.
The land in question is popular with snowmobilers and other winter recreationalists, as well as campers and hunters in the summer months, and has good wildlife habitat, the Missoulian reported.
The public comment period on the EIS will continue through mid-January.
The primary source of this article is the Missoulian, Missoula, Montana, on Nov. 25, 2011.