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County to back coalition on public lands issue

— The Idaho County Commission moved Tuesday, Jan. 26, to continue budgeting money – $5,000 per year – to sue the federal government for “gross mismanagement of our public lands” but not to send a check to the American Lands Council. Rather, the county will back the “Coalition of Counties” – an effort commission chairman Jim Chmelik travels the west to support.

Chmelik’s travels for that purpose are funded strictly by private contributions to his Western Landmark Foundation, he told the commission Tuesday. In a written statement, he noted no public money “committed toward the Coalition of Counties will be used to pay for any travel or incidental expenses.”

Chmelik noted the coalition presently consists of 13 counties and that he has been invited to talk to “the ALC” counties in Oregon and New Mexico.

“There’s a lot more people who are picking up the phone now and calling us,” Chmelik said.

Public records show Idaho County has sent a total of $10,000 to the American Lands Council in two payments of $5,000, with one warrant redeemed on Dec. 28, 2012 and another warrant redeemed on Nov. 15, 2013.

The county has continued to set aside money for that purpose, but Chmelik said no more checks have actually been sent. He proposed redirecting the money to the Coalition of Counties, to be documented in a letter of support, which the board approved on a second by commissioner Skip Brandt followed by a voice vote which commissioner Mark Frei appeared to join in favor.

“We look forward to continuing in the battle and working with ALC in uniting with our sister counties to bring litigation against the federal government,” Chmelik’s written statement reads. “Bringing to light the gross mismanagement of our public lands within the borders of our respective counties and the resulting detrimental effects on our health, safety, welfare and economic viability for our citizens is a worthy endeavor.”

Read the commission’s “letter of support” online at


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