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Meeting tonight on Lochsa corridor historic nomination

“there is no consideration of economic impact” wrote county commission

An overview map included in the Lochsa River Corridor National Register Nomination, for which a public process was begun and a public meeting was scheduled Sept. 12 in Grangeville.

Nez Perce Tribe Cultural Resource Program (document excerpt)
An overview map included in the Lochsa River Corridor National Register Nomination, for which a public process was begun and a public meeting was scheduled Sept. 12 in Grangeville.

Download copy of nomination

Information, including a redacted copy of the nomination, is available for download online at or

Public process begins after technical review

The State Historical Preservation Office described the nomination process as follows:

Following the submission of nomination materials by the Nez Perce Tribe, the State Historic Preservation Office conducted a technical review to determine whether the nomination addressed criteria for consideration set by the National Park Service. That review showed that the nomination addressed all criteria as stipulated by the National Park Service.

The State Historic Preservation Office provided legal notice of the upcoming public meeting to all landowners within the boundary of the nominated area, which included a description of the landowners’ right to object to the nomination and how to do so. The legal notice was also placed in the Idaho County Free Press.

The State Historic Preservation Office will accept written comments and/or objections via the mail, and will capture public comments at the Sept. 12 meeting and provide those to the Idaho State Historic Sites Review Board (Review Board), the United States Forest Service, and the National Park Service decision-maker.

On Sept. 22, the Review Board composed of nine state experts in the areas of history, architectural history and archaeology, will conduct an additional technical review of this and all other National Register Listing nominations made in Idaho over the past year, again, solely evaluating whether the nomination meets the threshold for historical significance required for consideration by the National Parks Service. The board meeting, which is scheduled over a year in advance, is open to the public and will take place in Sandpoint. Interested parties may provide comments regarding any of the nominations on the agenda at that meeting.

Should the Review Board determine that the nomination meets the criteria for consideration for National Register Listing by the National Parks Service, they will provide a letter to that effect to the National Park Service decision-maker.

Because there is federal land within the boundary of the proposed TCP, the nomination would be signed by the SHPO and forwarded to the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service would be responsible for forwarding the nomination and all public comments/letters to the National Park Service

If a majority of the private property owners whose properties fall within the boundaries of the nominated area formally object to the nomination (via a notarized letter addressed to the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, 210 Main Street, Boise ID 83702) the National Park Service may not list the property in the National Register of Historic Places.

— The Lochsa’s recent history has been one of controversy, and the long-running clash over the future of ancient places dear to the Nez Perce Tribe was renewed last month with the start of a public process that could end with addition of a new historic district to the National Register of Historic Places.

A local informational meeting is scheduled for tonight, 5:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Super 8 in Grangeville.

At the formal heart of the public process is paperwork – 111 pages – that describes the district for which the tribe seeks new federal recognition. It states the area nominated is “property…bounded by two major ridgelines on the northern and southern extents of the river corridor that run east-west from the Montana state border to Kooskia…on the Nez Perce Reservation.”

According to the form, the area is 763,350 acres in size and holds “numerous culturally significant places.”

These are listed as:

• Nez Perce legend sites and landmarks;

• prehistoric village sites, campgrounds, and occupation areas;

• gathering, fishing, and hunting grounds;

• water sources used for cleansing, conditioning, the collection of potable water, and ritual;

• birthplaces and burial grounds;

• sites for spiritual supplication and vision questing;

• named aboriginal places and landforms;

• along with many other esoteric individual, familial, and tribal places frequented by Nimíipuu.

“Each of these many sites…hold various levels of historic and contemporary significance to tribal members, and are essential for the perpetuation of Nez Perce society, culture, well-being, and identity,” according to the form.

The tribe’s efforts to protect these sites have, in the recent past, given rise to federal court fights.

Notably, and most recently, was the 2017 settlement of a 2013 lawsuit over “megaloads” – large, heavy machinery that was imported from across the Pacific Ocean and trucked from the port in Lewiston to Missoula and beyond. The settlement included a letter from the Forest Service’s regional office to the Idaho Transportation Department. In that letter, the federal agency set forth its position as to when oversized loads on U.S. Highway 12 are “incompatible with the use of the highway corridor…in light of recognized values under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.”

The same letter, signed by Forest Service regional supervisor Leann Marten, also described the “cultural importance of the corridor to the Nez Perce Tribe” – and stated the highway is “adjacent to, or in close proximity to, 52 cultural resource sites including Nez Perce religious and cultural sites.”

The continuation and expansion of freight traffic along the highway remains a concern of the Idaho County Commission. In an Aug. 28 letter regarding the nomination, commissioners expressed disappointment that “there is no consideration of economic impact” in the nomination.

“As we have seen in the past with transportation issues, this corridor has already been adversely impacted by the Wild & Scenic River designation,” the letter, signed by all three Idaho County commissioners, reads. “We believe this nomination and potential registry will only further hamstring the area, resulting in a loss of use.”

Some who live in Lochsa River communities such as Lowell and Syringa have brought their concerns to the Idaho County Free Press. Scott Swearingen of Syringa told the newspaper last week he found the form alarming because it describes his locale as a “modern intrusion” – and worried that could contribute to lowering the value of his property.

“My other concern is whether this may force the Forest Service to change how they manage recreation, timber, mining and rangeland,” Swearingen said.

The form, which lists 50 sites as contributing to Nez Perce oral tradition, was released last week through the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) of the Idaho State Historical Society. The SHPO has organized the meeting Sept. 12 in Grangeville to provide a summary of a project nominating the Lochsa River corridor to the National Register of Historic Places in advance of a Sept. 22 board meeting in Sandpoint.

“The Idaho State Historical Society is not advocating or even tasked with evaluating whether a Traditional Cultural Property National Register listing is the right choice for this community,” Idaho State Historical Society Executive Director Janet Gallimore said in a news release Friday morning, Sept. 7. “That decision lies with the National Park Service and will be informed by local input during the public process that we are responsible for facilitating.”

Gallimore recognized the county’s concern in her written statement Friday: “We fully respect the concerns of the Idaho County Commission and recognize the challenges that they and the residents of Idaho County face given the unusually high rate of federal land ownership in Idaho County and the surrounding areas,” she said.

Legal notice was published in the Idaho County Free Press (page 4B) on Sept. 5.


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