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Current News & Issues: Wilderness


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The following article appeared in the Idaho Mountain Express for October 13, 2004. View the original article online at


Wilderness bill grants federal land to Blaine County

By Greg Stahl, Express Staff Writer

While nothing is set in stone, Blaine County could join its neighbor Custer County and gain ownership of some federal land as part of Rep. Mike Simpson’s Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act.

The seeds for the possible land grants to Blaine County were planted by Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael, who along with her fellow commissioners submitted a list of 10 federally owned land parcels to Simpson’s office last summer.

“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.”

The 577 acres of properties sought by the county range widely, from Smiley Creek in the north to West Magic in the south. They are managed by the Sawtooth National Forest, Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the Bureau of Land Management’s Shoshone Field Office. Those agencies helped Blaine County compile its list, Michael said.

According to a summary of the wish list, various properties would be used for a fire station, well, recreational access, riparian restoration, solid waste transfer station and recycling center and gravel pits.

The largest block included is 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.”

Another 120 acres east of Picabo would be used for public access, as well as “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 turnaround for school busses.

Michael also asked for 12 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.

Admittedly, “growth and infrastructure needs” is a vague description, but Michael said the plan is to anticipate growth patterns and to be ready if densities spread. Earlier this 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.

Nonetheless, the economic development and wilderness bill Simpson filed with his congressional colleagues on Friday, Oct. 8, includes a section that conveys land to Blaine County, but does not cite any specific properties. According to the bill, properties will be identified in a map to be dated Nov. 1.

Lindsay Slater, Simpson’s chief of staff, said he has not yet thoroughly considered the various land blocks Blaine County has requested.”

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