Heather Scott: A Call To Action-Please Consider Attending!
Attention all liberty-minded, limited government fiscally responsible citizens:
We need your presence at the Bonner County Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @ 8:30 AM (1500 S. HWY, Sandpoint, ID) to voice your concerns about the Clagstone Conservation Easement currently be proposed for funding through the State Legislature.
Passage of this appropriation bill for this easement could have unknown lasting effects to the County, its tax base and funding for County services.
Issues of Concern:
- The state legislature will be voting on an appropriation bill which contains a line item for $5 million for the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) budget and $2 million for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) budget this week. These public funds will go directly to a private company (Stimson Lumber) for a conservation easement on approximately 13,000 acres they own in south central Bonner County. This proposed easement is being sought and supported by a diverse local coalition including the above two agencies and special interest environmental groups. The proposal plans to allow foot traffic for recreation on a portion of their property.
- This appropriation is being rushed for quick passage while the easement is in a draft form only. All Forest Legacy Program (administered by the Forest Service) projects require local government coordination and cooperation on these types of easements (your county,) but Bonner County Commissioners were never contacted by IDL, IDFG, USFS, Stimson Lumber Company or any other agency regarding this proposed easement action until early last week.
- To further complicate matters, they were denied a copy of the easement upon request and they had to do a FOIA public records request eventually get documents and public access management plan (PAMP). This document has not been completely reviewed yet, and there has been no coordination with the County! The lack of cooperation and coordination exhibited by the Forest Service, Idaho Department of Lands, and Idaho Department of Fish and Game when dealing with Bonner County Commissioners is unacceptable.
- On paper it seems like a great idea until one realizes that there is no reason your public money should pay for it. Stimson could either donate they land to the County and take a tax deduction or they could allow public access and obtain an easement on its own without the use of public funds. This appropriation is a great deal for the private company because they get to keep their land, deny access to part of their land, continue to log and manage their land, and if they choose, sell their land.
- Is it an appropriate use of public funds (Forest Legacy funds – generated from the sale of resources on public lands; Pittman-Robertson Act funds – generated from sale of firearms and ammunition) to pay a private corporation $7 million for a Conservation easement to allow limited public access and to preserve the “unique wetland and forested habitats found there” which the corporation could do for free? The easement will allow them to have the option to continue to generate income ( timber harvest ) on these easement lands and to carve out selected areas that are off limit to the public.
- Idaho Department of Fish and Game is selling this as a “win” for sportsmen to have access for hunting, trapping and fishing as well as helping protecting big game habitat on this 13,000 acre parcel. The concerns that have not been addressed are that there are no mechanisms for prioritizing recreation types or insurances in place that hunting and trapping will not be allowed when conflicts arise between recreation like hunting, trapping or fishing and other recreational activities such as jogging, birding, hiking, biking, etc.
- Does this type of public payment for private lands set a bad precedence fiscally for the State of Idaho? We are already a welfare state to the feds and should we not be spending public funding on more pressing issues? What precedence does this set for the State and future easement appropriations?
- IDFG claims it is preservation issue of a “unique area, not property rights. What is the true agenda?
- No economic feasibility study has been presented to so the impacts to county services such as EMS, Sheriff, road maintenance, fire suppression, property tax income, and neighboring land owners.
You will hear from the environmentalist and supporters:
- This is a property rights issue and the owner should have the right to do with their property as they wish. Response…Then why are we giving Stimson Lumber $ 7 million dollar? Why If they want to set up an easement on their property and allow foot traffic, then write it up and go to the county office and file it. What is the hidden agenda behind the big payoff?
- There are no state taxes being used to support the project and that all of the funding is private or federal pass through funding. Response…Where does government get its money?
- If Clagstone Conservation Easement does not go through the Funds from the Forest Legacy Grant will go back and go to another worthy piece of land and we will loose our opportunity to preserve our way of life for future generations. Response…This project is a high priority location for the Y2Y project. The Y2Y project is working on strategy throughout the North Idaho region to return lands for wild animal corridors so they can roam freely without human conflict. ***see below https://y2y.net/work/how-protect-connect-inspire/private-lands
Good comments and questions to ask:
- Section 1.3 of the agreement calls for IDL to coordinate with the County. That was never done so the County was unable to have input to the final document. This alone should put the funding process on hold until at least 2017 so this can occur.
- Some of the easement area is supposed to be open for recreation including hunting but since there will be no motorized vehicle traffic allowed such as ATVs. That means that disabled hunters, especially our wounded veterans will not be able to hunt. Where is the ADA compliance?
- The agreement with IDL is in draft form and can be changed to include other restrictions. There needs to be a final document
- Since no economic feasibility study was done and the County was not included in the discussion or development of the plan, Bonner County residents have no way of knowing how our tax base will be affected by this easement and potentially others to follow.
- The Bonner County Natural Resource Subcommittee, established to provide input on proposals such as this, has not had an opportunity to analyze and make recommendation to the plan. That is their charter in cases like this
- If this piece is so unique and rare in north Idaho where are the all private donor funds to insure it stays intact? Why depend on the public’s back?
- Is the lease language set up in such a manner that if there is a threatened or endangered plant or animal species found on the property that then precludes access or use, does Stimson refund a portion of the easement payment since Pittman Robertson funds are being used?
- Stimson could solve the main financial problem with this easement by just donating the land since they seem to want to be the good guy (remember its was they would filed the development application and this was likely a calculated move to force this hand)
- Remind the attendees that this issue is not about property rights as Stimson is free to do whatever they wish when private dollars are involved but these are not private dollars and Stimson is choosing to pursue this payout.
- What percentage of the 13,000 is going to be held out by Stimson as their private area with no public access? Whatever percentage the same amount should be reduced from the lease payment
- Who did the appraisal and was more than one to get an average?
- Stimson is being paid with public funds to do something they could for free (provide limited public access and continue to harvest timber and make a profit from the land) if they truly are trying to be benevolent
- How will multiple use conflict issues be resolved? This is a relatively small area with few entrance points which mean concentrated uses by a wide variety of outdoor types? There is bound to be issues and hunting always seems to be first to eliminate yet is sportsmen generated tax dollars that are paying for $2 million of this $ 7million easement.
- What will financial impacts to the County budget be from loss of property tax dollars (because permanent conservation easements make the land less valuable) and potentially increased EMS, sheriff, fire, road maintenance costs?
- What efforts were made by the easement grantor and grantees to contact the neighboring land owners to determine their concerns and issues with this easement?
Thank you team! I’ll fight the battle down here in Boise if you help me fight it on the home front.
*** WHAT Y2Y IS DOING
Purchasing private land has been identified as a key strategy to restore wildlife connectivity between three Y2Y priority areas – Central Canadian Rocky Mountains (CCRM), the Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor (CPMC) and the Crown of the Continent (COC) – and across the US-Canada border.
The CCRM and COC contain important protected areas that provide core habitat for wildlife. The CCRM, for example, has the longest stretch of protected land (354 miles/ 570 km) in the entire Yellowstone to Yukon region. And the COC comprises the trans-boundary Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park among others. These large protected areas, however, are separated by private land as well as the busy Highway 3, which runs east-west.