Sawtooth Society works to protect SNRA
Heres what the societys been up to this summer
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
National Recreation Area special license plate will be available to Idahoans next January.
If the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) has a guardian angel,
the Sawtooth Society is it.
Founded by Senator Frank Churchs widow, Bethine, in 1997, the
Sawtooth Society was formed to prevent development of the SNRAs land.
The Sawtooth Society has helped to facilitate the purchase of many
conservation easements between private landowners and the Forest Service and has raised
funds for trail maintenance and interpretive facilities as well.
Conservation easements, also known as scenic easements, allow the
Forest Service to buy development rights from landowners. The land is still privately
owned, but development is restricted.
Though summer is winding down and the heaviest tourist season for the
SNRA will soon be over, the Sawtooth Society is still working hard to ensure that the
areas pristine and pastoral qualities are protected.
In an interview, Sawtooth Society executive director Bob Hayes said the
end of this summer season will probably see several exciting projects come to fruition.
For example, ongoing discussions with a Stanley Basin landowner may
conclude in the coming weeks. The Piva family owns 160 acres of land in the Stanley Basin,
approximately six miles west of Stanley, and has received county and state approval to
construct a 20 lot subdivision there.
"A subdivision of that density would clearly be contrary to the
intent and spirit of the law that created the SNRA in 1972," Hayes said. "That
law and the regulations designed to carry out the law clearly discourage subdivision
development. Since it is private property, the only resource to fulfill the law is to
acquire development rights from the property owner."
Hayes said that about two years ago, the Pivas, a Challis-based
ranching family, stopped negotiating with Sawtooth National Forest officials about selling
conservation easements. He said the society stepped in to rekindle those discussions.
"Active discussions are underway, but there isnt anything
tangible to report now," Hayes said. "I hope to have something to report in the
next four weeks."
But facilitating conservation easement purchases isnt the only
thing the Sawtooth Society is striving to accomplish in the SNRA.
In an Aug. 7 fund-raising event, the Sawtooth Society received $6,000
toward the purchase of two mountain goat viewing scopes to be installed at a goat viewing
area along the Harriman Trail near Prairie Creek.
The goat viewing and interpretive site projectexpected to begin
in the next year or twois being spearheaded by the Blaine County Recreation District
as part of the Harriman Trails construction.
One of the Sawtooth Societys most notable accomplishments from
the past year is the new SNRA-theme Idaho license plate, which will be available to
Idahoans in January.
The plate depicts a sun rising over a jagged mountain peak with a
mountain goat in the foreground. It says, simply: "Sawtooth National Recreation
The Sawtooth Society played the leading role in designing and
introducing the plate to the Idaho legislature in March.
A portion of plates sales will benefit SNRA recreation
enhancement projects, Hayes said. For every plate thats sold for $35, approximately
$10 will go to the SNRA.
Additionally the Sawtooth Society will work with SNRA officials and
other interested parties to pinpoint needy projects which would benefit from plate sales,
The Sawtooth Society is working on a plan for marketing the plate, and
will probably target counties nearest to the SNRA, he said.
This summer, the society also supplied the SNRA with $13,000 earmarked
for trail maintenance and donated resources for work on the SNRAs Galena Summit
interpretive site restoration.
"We have had a number of irons in the fire and feel good about the
progress were making," Hayes said.