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With taxing districts under pressure, county commissioner works the cut




The “forest funds” came up far short last year.

In 10 or 20 years — if the Forest Service succeeds in getting out the timber cuts now being proposed all across the county — those of us too young or too new to the forest wars to remember the boom times may be able to look back on 2017 as the worst of our hard times. As recently as 2016, the federal government sent more than $6.25 million in “forest funds.” That funding is gone; the county road and bridge department alone lost out on $1.2 million in 2017. The other local roads-and-schools taxing districts lost out on a combined $4.2 million, compared to 2016.


Andrew Ottoson

In its place, the county and the taxing districts received less than $350,000 this year – a tick up from $316,000 last year – through what are commonly known as 25 percent funds.

Circumstances have us thinking a lot about how the age-old clashes over local forest policy are playing out, and about how well Idaho County Commission chairman Skip Brandt is keeping up.

After publication of our Feb. 28 article on the county’s participation in the ongoing Forest Plan Revision, we were encouraged upon hearing Brandt insist the county’s problems coordinating with the Forest Service may be a thing of the past.

“We are concerned we haven’t seen the inclusion of our [natural resources] plan, but as far as true collaboration and coordination, they have been stepping up,” Brandt said.

We credit Brandt’s willingness to take the county’s fight to dozens of meetings where the “fight” amounts to carrying on what has already been a years-long conversation.

But when Brandt referred to environmentalists as “terrorists” during an interview with the Free Press last month, the turn of phrase struck us as out-of-date, misplaced and weak, unsound and unfit for the fight the county now aims to win – and generally just a revolting way for anyone in government to talk about anyone who has not literally committed an act of war.

Misplaced, because denunciations won’t directly shape the outcome of the Forest Plan Revision.

Weak, because we remember how well the rhetoric worked out for the prior commission chairman.

Unsound, and unfit for the current fight, because vilifying those who got the better of the Forest Service process in the past tars the talks in which the county now participates.

In the past, we’ve implored environmentalists and their strategically-minded lawyers to guard against appearing to oppose our local communities’ economic interests. Now, with the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests’ plan being revised through a process that will take at least two more years to complete, we’re asking Brandt to guard against discrediting what appears well on the way to a better outcome – not only for local industry and taxpayers, but for everyone who wants the best for the forests and rivers in our area.

He should save his breath next time he wants to pop off to us about environmentalists – and should tell us more about what he and the county are doing to work the cut.


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