For the week of November 11 thru November 17, 1998  

County commissioners approve Clear Creek subdivision

Cenarussa sets agenda for state lands

Express Staff Writer

At their regular meeting on Monday, the Blaine County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Heidi Baldwin and the Idaho State Department of Lands’ joint application to subdivide land along Clear Creek.

The 103 acres of the Clear Creek subdivision, which originally entailed a public/private land swap, will be divided into four lots ranging in size from 6.36 acres to 54.18 acres. Under the swap agreement, two lots belong to Baldwin and two belong to the state school endowment fund, administered by the state Land Board.

While the process of seeking the approval for application has been lengthy, controversial, and well publicized, its granting was not a surprise.

The subdivision is at the top of Owl Rock Road on the west side of Highway 75, just south of the new hospital site in Cold Springs.

Under the application, the public will have non-motorized access to the area, limited to horse and foot traffic, to the public lands beyond the subdivision.

The most surprising element of the public hearing on Clear Creek came from Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarussa, who announced that state lands are a sacred trust but they are not public.

Speaking on behalf of the state’s interest in Clear Creek, but with ramifications for much larger agendas, Cenarussa said he wanted to clear up a common "misunderstanding" about the status of Idaho school endowment lands, which are administered by the State Land Board of which he is a member.

"State lands are not public lands," he stated unequivocally.

"They were public lands until they were turned over to the state for benefit of the school endowment. Now they are trust lands, held in trust by the state Land Board," he continued. "And the board has wide discretion in what it can do with these lands."

Cenarussa added that recommendations by Idaho Fish and Game personnel concerning parcels of state land are not the same as policy decisions.

"I have spoken to both the governor (Phil Batt) and the governor elect (Dirk Kempthorne), and we all agree that agency workers like those from Fish and Game, the hired hands and the bureaucrats, are not policy makers," Cenarussa said.

Speaking of the Land Board’s role in leasing, selling, trading and buying land to benefit the school endowment fund, Cenarussa spoke in favor of livestock being permitted in Clear Creek.

"The state wants to keep all its options open, and allowing horses there might increase the value of the land," he said. Cenarussa concluded by saying, "These lands are a sacred trust and should be treated as such."


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