It’s been a crazy couple of weeks since Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R-Cottonwood) tried to kill the Clagstone Meadows conservation easement.
Sen. Nuxoll represents District 7, which includes a portion of Bonner County (including Clagstone Meadows), and all of Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho counties.
This ill-advised cause was taken up by Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) who may have been motivated to fight this conservation easement due to a report from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which included misinformation and exaggerations about the Clagstone Meadows conservation easement.
Lest you be led astray by that IFF report, here are the facts:
The Clagstone Meadows Conservation Easement has been in the works since 2010. The proposal was spawned following public outcry and concern from neighbors and sportsmen and women over the planned development of 1,200 homes and two golf courses in sensitive wildlife habitat south of Sandpoint.
The 13,000-acre property, owned by Stimson Lumber Company includes numerous lakes and wetlands that make up the headwaters of the already troubled Hoodoo Creek.
Based on the public concerns surrounding the development proposal, Stimson Lumber Co., Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Trust for Public Land, and others joined forces to develop a plan to conserve the area, guarantee public access, and to allow Stimson to continue to manage the timberlands under a permanent easement. The easement would be held by the Idaho Department of Lands.
This winter, the puzzle pieces were all aligned to close the deal: $9 million in federal and private funding would fund the easement’s purchase and all that was needed was the blessing of the Idaho Legislature. The funding, all designated for protecting working lands and providing sportsman access, was included in must-pass spending bills for the Idaho Departments of Lands and of Fish and Game.
Then came the last-minute opposition from legislators and two Bonner County Commissioners. Opposition to the easement belied their past support for timber interests and sportsmen access, and likely didn’t win them many friends in those two camps.
As a result of a flurry of phone calls and meetings with commissioners on the part of Stimson Lumber Co., sportsmen, agency officials and neighbors, many of the concerns the commissioners had were addressed.
But Scott sent a “Call to Action” to her supporters and packed a Bonner County Commissioners meeting, hoping still to kill the deal. When that failed, she worked hard on the floor of the House to defeat HB 646, a stand-alone bill to pass-through these federal funds.
Fortunately, a majority of legislators recognized this proposal for what it is: a win-win for the community, sportsmen and women, and wildlife resources.
Not only does this agreement keep timber land in production-which keeps jobs in the region-but it secures access for hunters, anglers, hikers and mountain bikers, while protecting sensitive wetlands and the water supply for downstream neighbors.
Yes, Stimson will be compensated-but as North Idaho enters its busiest building season in years, keep in mind what this business is giving up; more than $3 million of the land’s value, and the rights to develop and sell 1,200 homes less than a half-hour drive from Coeur d’Alene.