Friday, July 15, 2011

Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement being prepared for proposed land exchange

Orofino, ID—The Forest Service has signed an addendum to the 2008 feasibility analysis for the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange.  The addendum takes a closer look at the federal lands recently proposed for exchange by the Idaho County Commissioners.

According to Nez Perce-Clearwater Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell, the Idaho County Commissioners objected to all action alternatives presented in the 2010 Draft Environmental Impact Statement because of potential negative economic impacts to Idaho County’s tax base.

The Commissioners countered with a new alternative that identifies approximately 45,000 acres of federal lands entirely within Idaho County that could be considered for exchange for the roughly 40,000 acres of Western Pacific land within the Upper Lochsa drainage.  Those lands are also located within Idaho County.

The 45,000 acres identified by Idaho County exceeds what is needed to complete the exchange and will be refined through future public involvement processes.

Brazell said he welcomes the alternative as he seeks a solution to what has been a contentious proposal.  At the same time, he acknowledged the new alternative is likely outside of the agency’s authority because the Forest Service only has authority to approve a value-for-value exchange.

Idaho County has indicated they plan to pursue legislation that would allow an acre-for-acre exchange with the provision that additional revenues generated by the swap would be allocated to watershed restoration efforts in the Upper Lochsa lands.

Project Manager Teresa Trulock said the next phase in the process is to develop a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement which presents and analyzes the new proposed alternative.  That would be followed by a 45-day public comment period.

She expects the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to be released sometime in October.

The Upper Lochsa Land Exchange was initiated in 2008.  It originally involved the exchange of approximately 40,000 acres of” Western Pacific Timber LLC lands that were interspersed with Forest Service lands near Lolo Pass for scattered parcels of national forest system lands located within Benewah, Bonner, Clearwater, Idaho, Kootenai and Latah counties.

The Forest Service sought to acquire the lands to block up ownership in the headwaters of the Upper Lochsa River.  The lands also hold significant aquatic, terrestrial and cultural values.

Information regarding the exchange including the 2008 Feasibility Analysis and the July 2011 Addendum can be viewed at the Clearwater National Forest website under the heading “Projects.”

For more information, contact Teresa Trulock at (208) 935-4256.

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