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The following article appeared in the Idaho Mountain Express, Ketchum, Idaho, April 4, 2005.
 

Blaine seeks wilderness land gifts
County Commission schedules public hearings for Thursday

By GREG STAHL
Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer


As part of the federal land that could be doled out in Rep. Mike Simpson's Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act to established a Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness Area, up to nine properties totaling more than 500 acres could be transferred into Blaine County's ownership.

The Blaine County Commissioners, however, want to know what local residents think about the properties they have highlighted for possible transfers.

"It's part of the community involvement," said Commission Chair Sarah Michael. "It's important that residents be involved in the decision making process."

Michael planted the seeds for the possible land grants to Blaine County and, along with her fellow commissioners, submitted a list of 10 federally owned land parcels to Simpson's office last summer. In the last several months, the initial list was shrunk to nine.

"I feel that Blaine County does have land needs," Michael said. "When Custer County was getting a share of the bill, I thought it would be useful for us to identify some of our specific needs we knew were out there."

As part of Simpson's wilderness bill, a half-dozen properties are earmarked for transfers to Custer County and several of its communities. Many residents there have long lamented the large amount of public land ownership within the county's borders.

According to a summary of Blaine County's public land wish list, various properties would be used for a fire station, well, recreation access, riparian restoration, solid waste transfer station and recycling center, gravel pits, future growth and infrastructure or amenities near a new south-county airport.

The largest block includes 160 acres south of Magic Reservoir that would be "near a possible Blaine County airport site." The county would hold the property "for future growth and infrastructure needs."

The most specific requests Michael made included 102 acres in Ohio Gulch that would be used for a new solid waste transfer station and recycling center, 2 acres in Smiley Creek that would be used for a new fire station, and 1 acre on Eagle Creek Road that would be used for an expanded turn around for school buses.

Michael also asked for 11 acres in Oregon Gulch that would be used for "improved and safer access, increased recreational use of Oregon Gulch and riparian restoration and noxious weed treatment in exchange for an opportunity to improve the infrastructure of the trailer park."

Near Glendale Road, 120 acres would be used for gravel pits. Near Triumph, 34.78 acres would be used for "future growth and infrastructure needs."

Another 40 acres were targeted along Croy Creek Road, and .47 acres are targeted in Smiley Creek for a new city well.

"Growth and infrastructure needs" is a vague description, but Michael said the plan is to anticipate growth patterns and to be ready if densities ever spread. Last summer she indicated that one of the county's most pressing needs was for land that could be used for community housing, but this week she backed away from that assertion in the context of the land grants.

"We're looking to the future," Michael said.

The economic development and wilderness bill Simpson filed with his congressional colleagues last fall included a section that would have conveyed land to Blaine County. It did not, however, cite any specific properties. Simpson is expected to resubmit the bill to Congress this month.

Open Houses scheduled

The Blaine County Commission will host two open house meetings this week to field questions and present possibilities about land the county could be gifted as part of a Central Idaho wilderness and economic development package.

Both are scheduled for Thursday, April 7. The first will be from noon to 1:30 p.m. The second will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Commissioners will host another open house on Wednesday, April 27, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

All of the meetings will be held in the upstairs meeting room at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey.
 

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