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
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
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
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
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.”