Saturday, March 9, 2013

Free Press: Lochsa Land Swap Deal Pushed Back Again

Posted By on Sat, Mar 9, 2013 at 1:00 PM

A controversial Idaho land swap deal has been pushed back again—this time until July.

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.

In September 2012, citydesk reported that former Idaho U.S. Senator 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, which the Forest Service wants to acquire.

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."

This week's Idaho County Free Press reports that the exact locations of parcels WPT stands to acquire in the deal will depend on an environmental analysis and appraisal, which are still under way. The Free Press also reports that the deal could hinge on WPT's option to pursue a so-called "legislative trade," under which the U.S. Congress would make the final decision.

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