A public meeting on a controversial Idaho land swap deal
will draw some high-power attention later this month, when Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and the owner of Western Pacific Timber travel to Grangeville.
The Upper Lochsa Land Exchange
would see a massive swap of territory between Western Pacific Timber and the U.S. Forest Service. If approved, WPT could gain ownership of 14,000-18,000 acres of land spread over Benewah, Bonner, Clearwater, Kootenai, Idaho and Latah counties.
The proposed swap has been in the works since 2007. In 2012, former Idaho U.S. Sen.r Larry Craig, who limped away from office following a 2007 arrest for lewd conduct, had been hired
as a lobbyist for Western Pacific Timber to represent its interests in the proposed swap.
WPT currently owns approximately 40,000 acres of land in a checkerboard pattern near the Idaho/Montana border—and the Forest Service wants to acquire it.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which had worked since 2008 on the proposed land swap, backed away from the deal in December 2011, saying its membership did not support the swap because the "project had evolved where it is counter to our mission."
Now, this morning's Lewiston Tribune reports
Otter and WPT owner James Dolan will on hand on Tuesday, Nov. 24 for a public meeting on the issue. The meeting was reportedly organized by U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, whose spokesman said Risch had yet to take a position on the exchange.
"The purpose of the meeting is just to listen to Idahoans about how they feel about the Lochsa land exchange," Darren Parker, deputy legislative director for Risch, told the Tribune
. "The senator has no preconceived ideas about the proposal."
In addition to Otter,Risch and Dolan, the Nov. 24 meeting is expected to include representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, the Nez Perce tribe and opponents of the swap.