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For the week of Sept. 15, 1999 through Sept. 22, 1999

Sawtooth Society works to protect SNRA

Here’s what the society’s been up to this summer


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Sawtooth 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 Church’s widow, Bethine, in 1997, the Sawtooth Society was formed to prevent development of the SNRA’s 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 area’s 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 isn’t anything tangible to report now," Hayes said. "I hope to have something to report in the next four weeks."

But facilitating conservation easement purchases isn’t 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 project—expected to begin in the next year or two—is being spearheaded by the Blaine County Recreation District as part of the Harriman Trail’s construction.

One of the Sawtooth Society’s 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 Area."

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 that’s 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, Hayes said.

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 SNRA’s Galena Summit interpretive site restoration.

"We have had a number of irons in the fire and feel good about the progress we’re making," Hayes said.

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.