Friday, June 12, 2009

Feds consider sale of Greenhorn guard station

Sawtooth Forest officials say discussion of any deal is ‘premature’


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Officials with the Sawtooth National Forest have identified the old Greenhorn Gulch Guard Station and 160 acres surrounding it for possible sale.

The old Greenhorn Gulch Guard Station and 160 acres of Sawtooth National Forest land surrounding it have been identified for possible sale in the U.S. Forest Service's 2010 budget request to Congress.

The site, located about 10 miles southwest of Ketchum next to the popular Greenhorn Gulch Trailhead, is no longer used as an active guard station. These days, Forest Service trail crews use the classic green-and-white building and the rest of the federally owned site as a base of operations during the warmer months of the year.

Contacted Thursday, Sawtooth National Forest Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson stressed that there's been no official decision to actually sell the old administrative site. Rather, Sawtooth officials identified the site as part of a federal "administrative site conveyance process," he said.

Nelson described the site's inclusion in the list of administrative sites as being simply a "placeholder." He said any discussion of a possible sale is "premature" at best.

The guard station was included in a long list of other similar sites around the region that were forwarded to the U.S. Forest Service's Region 4 offices in Ogden, Utah. Region 4 officials were responsible for deciding what to include in the 2010 budget request.

Nelson said he was notified that the Greenhorn Gulch site had actually made its way into the official budget submission to Congress by Lindsay Slater, chief of staff for Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

A lot would have to happen for the guard station to make it into the final budget package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama. From there, the sale would then have to weave its way through what is perhaps an even longer process, a formal environmental assessment and a public comment period.

Nelson said the conveyance process looks at federal sites that may be unnecessary and could be sold in the interest of government cost-saving efforts. He said all federal agencies are asked to consider their administrative sites as part of the process.

Nelson said the Ketchum Ranger District hasn't done anything more than identify the site and forward it on to the forest's regional office. He acknowledged the interest many valley residents have in the site's future.

He said nothing would be done without asking them what they think of such a sale.

"That's an area that's very near and dear to people's hearts," he said.

The possibility that the guard station could be sold to private buyers came up during Tuesday's meeting of the Blaine County Commission. Commissioner Tom Bowman said he had a discussion with Nelson about the site.

Nelson said his discussion with Bowman was simply a matter of courtesy. He said the forest didn't want the county commissioners to learn of an actual proposal to sell the site at the last minute.

Nelson said no other administrative sites have been identified for possible sale in the Ketchum Ranger District.

Jason Kauffman: jkauffman@mtexpress.com




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