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Published by: CCWebClients on Feb 25, 2011
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The Associated Press
NC Idaho land exchange in dispute
 Originally published May 11, 2010 at 11:37 a.m., updated May 11, 2010 at 12:41 p.m.MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) - Opponents of a proposed northern Idaho land swap say it would be a poor
bargain to exchange mature, publicly-owned forests for logged-over ground on the Idaho-Montana
border owned by luxury resort promoter and former billionaire Tim Blixseth.The group, including Friends of the Palouse Ranger District, told the U.S. Forest Service in a letter itshould just buy 40,000 acres of private ground in the Upper Lochsa River Basin near Lolo Pass, owned
by Portland, Ore.-based Western Pacific Timber.Western Pacific owners include Tim Blixseth, who founded the swank Yellowstone Club in southwesternMontana before handing it over to his ex-wife after their divorce.The trade, originally proposed five years ago, foresees swapping Blixseth's timber land for up to28,000 acres of scattered parcels of U.S. Forest Service land in the Idaho Panhandle, Clearwater andNez Perce national forests.But the groups this week told Rick Brazell, supervisor of the Clearwater and Nez Perce nationalforests, to dump the exchange. They argue cash from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, afederal repository for offshore oil and natural gas drilling royalties, instead should be used to buyBlixseth's property."Public opposition against the proposed land exchange is growing among Idaho residents," the groupswrote, the Lewiston Tribune reported. "We would like to suggest the option of purchasing the UpperLochsa using the Lands and Water Conservation Fund either outright or in a phased approach."Others behind the letter include Friends of the Clearwater, Latah County Farm Bureau, Idaho forWildlife, Western Lands Project and the Lands Council.Western Pacific's property is arranged in a checkerboard pattern amid federal land, a historical relic
dating back to the 19th century as railroads received territory from the federal government. Theincentives sped development of transportation routes, but in modern times have complicatedmanagement.Money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund often helps resolve such snarls, though such deals
can take years, due to limited resources and intense competition for the cash.Currently, President Obama's 2011 budget sets aside $2 million from the federal fund to buy a sliverof Blixseth's 40,000 acres targeted for the exchange. The agency has also asked for $8 million more
for future years to make additional acquisitions, but even that would still leave about 30,000 acres up
for exchange.

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