Corporate Welfare – Stimson Jumps on the Gravy Train
Stimson Lumber owns about 13,000 acres near Athol, in Bonner County, Idaho. They have been logging this property for awhile, as was needed, and now it is time for the land to rest. What should they do next? Land sitting idle will not bring them profits.
They had an idea to develop the land and build about 1,200 homes on it, but the real estate market took a nosedive. That idea was a wash.
They could open the land up to hunters! Great idea, but they still need to pull in their profits. How can they do that and still generate millions of dollars?
Ah, yes, the Forest Legacy Project! This idea would allow them to retain ownership of the land. They would also retain their sellers rights, so they could profit, again, down the road.
What would they have to give up? Not much. They have to allow the public some access, not complete access. They can deny motorized vehicles, so the access becomes even more limited. And the best part? The taxpayers will pay them MILLIONS of Dollar$ to do this.
Bonner County already has about 63% of it’s land set aside for public access. That is quite a chunk, yet Stimson needs the money, so they went to the people that have the clout in Boise.
They asked the executive director of the Associated Logging Contractors (ALC-Idaho), who just so happens to be Co-Chair of the the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) for Idaho. District 1 Senator Shawn Keough.
(Can anyone say “Conflict of Interest”?)
Now, legally, the forest legacy project deed of conservation easement, Section 1.3 requires coordination with local government, I.E. the Bonner County Commissioners. But, apparently they knew it wouldn’t be very popular, so they found a way around it. Don’t tell them!
(Remember, it is always easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.)
When the residents found out about this little project, they were not very happy, and began to make their voices heard. Even the Bonner County Commissioners spoke out and refused to give their approval to the project.
Did that matter to Sen. Keough? Nope. She rushed the financing through JFAC in record time.
Now, guess what is the best part of this sweet little welfare deal? It isn’t even finalized yet. The papers are still in draft form, so they can change the rules down the road and no one will be the wiser.
I received an email from Representative Phylis K. King (House Seat 18b) that told me she was sure that the Commissioners “were not in on the beginning negotiating, but they should have gotten up to speed and NOT scream when they finally get their head in the game.”
Well, now that sounds like she is blaming the Commissioners for not knowing about the project. I guess it is up to them to notify themselves? Only in Crony America would they blame the victims for allowing themselves to be thrown under the bus.
I guess it shouldn’t count that they did, in fact, attempt to find out about it, but were DENIED.
The county commissioners requested a copy of the documents (which included the conservation easement and Public Access management plan). When they requested a copy of them from IDL they were told that they were “confidential”.
They had to do a public records request (FOIA) to get the conservation easement that they were supposed to be coordinating on!
Now that H0646 has passed the House, and we know that it will pass Keough’s Senate, Stimson Lumber will be approved for millions to buy more land and start the process all over again.
Our elected officials made it pretty easy for Stimson to hitch a ride on the Gravy Train.