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Federal land buy, Highline Fire irk county commissioner

— Idaho County commission chairman Skip Brandt on Tuesday morning, Aug. 22, notified congressional representatives and local, regional and statewide media that the Payette National Forest is intending to buy “another chunk of our county/private/taxable acres” in the southern part of Idaho County.

Brandt also described a conflict between the county and the Payette National Forest (PNF) over the costs of fighting the Highline Fire, which has been burning in the wilderness southeast of Dixie since July and is now, according to Brandt, threatening the privately owned Root Ranch.

To the aides of Rep. Raul Labrador, Sen. Jim Risch and Sen. Mike Crapo as well as to Idaho County Free Press, Clearwater Progress, Lewiston Tribune and Idaho Statesman reporters, Brandt forwarded an e-mail Idaho County disaster management coordinator Jerry Zumalt apparently wrote to Payette National Forest Krassel district ranger Anthony Botello concerning firefighting methods and costs.

Botello had apparently informed Zumalt the Forest Service will do “minor fuels treatment and use sprinklers, etc. on private land, but will not wrap, sprinkle, etc. the private structures” at Root Ranch. Zumalt responded to the effect that the county expects the structures would receive point protection:

“While the county does not expect the wrapping of structures, we do expect aggressive point protection and plumbing in a broad, not minimal sense at the Root Ranch, as it becomes directly threatened, including utilizing fire assigned resources to apply the tactics outlined below to their maximum effectiveness.  The PNF made a decision to allow this fire to burn naturally in late July; it now threatens private property and Idaho County expects the PNF thru their delegation(s) of authority to the NIMO team to essentially, ‘take care of it.’”

Brandt’s note to the media and the Congress people ended with an angry question: “When will this crap stop?”

The Free Press had previously reported the Payette’s potential purchase of about 40 acres across the Salmon River from Tepee Creek and Jersey Creek in the southern part of Idaho County. In a July 3 report, the Free Press noted the purchase could come during the 2017 fiscal year and would involve money Congress provides for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The land is valued at about $360,000, with tax bills of about $2,400 per year.

A national incident management organization took command of the Highline Fire last Thursday, Aug. 17. Information about the Highline Fire is online:


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