NEWS RELEASE For immediate release
Monday, October 11, 2004
Congress: fund PILT, not destroy Idaho’s precious
Petition begins circulating in Central Idaho
For additional information:
Marie Osborn (Stanley): 774-3559
Dave Kimpton (Stanley): 774-3386
STANLEY—A group of Stanley area residents today began circulating a
petition asking Congress to fully and fairly fund PILT (payment in lieu of
taxes) to fund Custer County government instead of selling off and
destroying critical habitat for elk and wild chinook salmon as proposed by
Rep. Mike Simpson.
"This is an unacceptable impact on elk and salmon," said Dave Kimpton, elk
hunter and fisherman who also volunteers as board president for the Salmon
River Emergency Clinic and is a retired district ranger for the Stanley
region of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). "We need to have
a solid tax base, but you don’t want to be giving up critical wildlife
habitat. Congress already has PILT to fund county government, and needs
to use that tool."
On Friday, October 8, Rep. Simpson introduced his Central Idaho Economic
Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA). The bill calls for giving away
over 1,000 acres on the Challis National Forest and Sawtooth National
Recreation Area to be sold and subdivided. The petition sponsors oppose
these public land giveaways, and instead urge Congress to address problems
PILT was created in 1976 to pay counties for nontaxable federal lands
within their borders to help offset the local government’s tax base.
However, the funding formula favors counties with high populations, and is
only being funded at about two-thirds the level allowed for by law. In
the past 5 years, Congress failed to pay Custer County over $1 million
comparing the dollar figures authorized and actually appropriated. In
2004 the Congressional PILT payment to Custer County was $391,379, as
compared with the far more wealthy Blaine County that received $990,619.
Custer County, located in central Idaho’s Salmon River country, has about
4,300 residents and covers an area of nearly 3 million acres. Most of
this, 96 percent, is federal lands making PILT payments essential for
funding county government and services. But for Custer County as other
with other rural counties in the West, the PILT monies are restricted and
rarely go to fund emergency medical services, roads, schools, and other
essential public services. The petition sponsors seek to change this.
"If the diagnosis is not enough money for Custer County government and
services, then the remedy is to fix PILT," said Marie Osborn, the nurse
practitioner who staffed the clinic in Stanley for nearly 30 years.
"Sacrificing our children’s heritage and some of Idaho’s most precious
places won’t fix Custer County’s problems."
The lands targeted to be given away include nearly 1,000 acres at Cape
Horn. This area straddles the watershed divide between the Middle Fork
and Main Salmon River, and includes the glorious views of the Sawtooth
peaks as people travel from Boise to Stanley and first enter the Stanley
Basin. Simpson proposes that these lands would be given to Custer County,
sold, and subdivided. What are now quiet elk calving areas and salmon
spawning and rearing waters would become a massive new development.
"This is one of the few native runs of salmon in the United States not
contaminated by hatcheries," said Kimpton. "Image several thousand
people in these fragile meadows and marshes. The impact on fish and
wildlife will be devastating."
Stanley residents are also fearful that the land giveaways will further
increase already high property taxes. These federal lands would be sold
to affluent buyers for summer palaces, driving up property taxes and
likely driving out low and middle income families in the Stanley area.
In opposing Simpson’s proposal to give away wildlife habitat, the petition
offers a three-part remedy:
(1) Congress needs to provide funds directly to Custer County,
including back taxes in lieu.
(2) Congress needs to reform PILT so that money can go for emergency
medical services, roads and schools, including a badly needed high
school in Stanley.
(3) To secure dependable funding for counties, PILT needs to change from
an annual Congressional appropriation to an entitlement, which would
mean guaranteed annual funding. The funding formula needs to change so
that sparsely populated, low-income counties such as Custer are more
fully and fairly funded.
In addition to Marie Osborn and Dave Kimpton, the other co-sponsors are
Tom Stuart, a motel owner in Stanley, and Doug and Ann Christensen,
property owners at Pettit Lake.