Clagstone Meadows Project – A Conspiracy?
Clagstone Farms started in 1915 with a 200-acre parcel and has grown to 18,000 acres. Through the years, the property has seen many proposed uses, with many of those proposals requiring state grants in order to come to fruition. In 1915, $4,800 was allocated for one year but state legislators did not make that ongoing funding.
The Clagstone property is now owned by Stimson Lumber. In 2010, Stimson proposed a development project that created a “worst nightmare” for conservation groups. The proposal would have turned the former farm into a major living and recreational community. The plan called for two new golf courses, expansion of Beaver Lake (thus destroying native wetlands) and the prospect of 1,200 homes, cottages, and RV Pads.
The project created an uproar in the local community and was eventually defeated.
Stimson’s latest proposal consists of selling an easement to the State of Idaho to allow public access to the 18,000 acres. Some legislators, including Representative Heather Scott (Republican, District 1), have serious concerns. Those include a lack of access to the property and how the state could be forced to purchase the property if the owners ever wanted to sell. At this time, there are no public protections against that potential sale. “If I kill a deer 3 miles in, I can’t even use my ATV to get it out as there will be no motorized access.” Scott said.
Bonner County commissioners are concerned by the apparent lack of “transparency” shown during the latest negotiations. They feel this latest proposal violated Section 1.3 of the Forest Legacy Act, as none of the three commissioners were advised of the agreement until after the legislature’s Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee (JFAC) had approved the funding.
When asked who was behind getting this passed, Bonner County commissioner Todd Sudick advised Redoubt News to “follow the money”, which lead to the Tides Foundation, through the Trust for Public Lands, a George Soros-backed organization. The issue has already lead to a controversial funding bill from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, seeking to increase their budget by 10.8% or $2 million.
Senator Shawn Keough (Republican, District 1) is co-chair of the most powerful legislative committee in Boise, the aforementioned JFAC. Many people feel she could potentially benefit from this agreement in the coming elections, due to her many years of working in the timber industry and her multiple connections within the industry. Keough tells the Spokesman Review that she believes this is a “win, win situation.” However, Senator Jim Guthrie (Republican, District 28) stated, “We have two-thirds of Idaho already publicly owned and it just seems contrary to me that we pay to have these easements.”
Senator Sheryl Nuxoll (Republican, District 7), an opponent of the proposal and one of the legislators who tried to stop the bill from proceeding, said, “I agree we must protect our land but I also know the Forest Legacy Program is promoted by the environmental groups, which is great in some ways, but keeping the land in perpetuity is limiting the freedom of choice for our children and grandchildren and our free market economy. We’re using that money to pay a lumber company to preserve land on which they own and use.”
The proposed funding would come from Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, federal grants and Stimson Lumber would invest $3.1 million.
Commissioner Sudick did make sure to tell Redoubt News that this project can still be stopped.
**Edited for grammar/punctuation.