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