Thursday, September 27, 2012
Government land swaps: A bad deal for the rest of us?
For Western Pacific Timber and its then-President and CEO Tim Blixseth, the spring of 2006 promised big business. The company had recently purchased 39,371 acres in the Clearwater National Forest in the Upper Lochsa, on the Idaho-Montana border. The Lewis and Clark trail winds through here. The rivers and woods are home to threatened steelhead, bull trout and Canada lynx. Foresters and conservationists had wanted to consolidate ownership of the checker-boarded territory for years, and Blixseth knew it. So he gathered a handful of U.S. Forest Service managers in a corner office of Western Pacific's Boise high-rise and offered to exchange the newly purchased Upper Lochsa land for part of the Payette National Forest around McCall, a popular Idaho ski town. In the '80s and '90s, the Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management lost money and crucial habitat in major land exchanges that favored private parties. Agencies are required to ensure that transactions "serve the public interest," with the new land's value at least equal to that of the land exchanged...more