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Risch Letter to Forest Service 'Closes Chapter' on Lochsa Land Swap Deal


After years of public debate, U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) says he's not inclined to push a controversial Idaho swap deal between the U.S. Forest Service and Western Pacific Timber. The proposed Upper Lochsa Land Exchange has been in the works since 2007 and, if approved, would see WPT gain ownership of 14,000-18,000 acres of land spread over Beneway, Bonner, Clearwater, Kootenai, Idaho and Latah counties. WPT even hired former U.S. Senator Larry Craig, who limped away from office following his 2007 arrest for lewd conduct, as a lobbyist to represent the timber giant.

In November 2015, Risch brokered a public meeting that included the owner of WPT and Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, but after hearing stiff opposition against the trade, Risch now says he won't pursue legislation to authorize the swap. Risch's office said as much as 97 percent of public comments to their office have been against the trade.

This morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that, in a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Risch wrote, "A critical mass of consensus is essential to resolving this issue. That does not exist now and is not even close at this time," adding that "The USFS land is public land, and the owners' view, particularly those living closest to the land, should be considered."

The Tribune's Eric Barker writes that Risch's announcement, "brings to an end at least one chapter in the decade-long saga over the fate of the land at the headwaters of the Lochsa River basin."