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For the week of January 22 - 28, 2003

News

Land trust seeks easement near highway


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

If all goes as planned, a 145-acre parcel of open space across U.S. Highway 20 from the rest area near Timmerman Junction will be protected from development.

The Blaine County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to sponsor an application by the Wood River Land Trust to obtain a $313,000 grant from the federal Transportation Enhancement Program to buy a scenic easement on the property.

The program was set up in 1991 to enhance the nationís highway system. Among other things, it provides up to 80 percent of the cost of buying scenic easements. Applications are processed by each stateís transportation department, and must be sponsored by a local jurisdiction.

If approved, the grant money will become available in 2006. It would fund acquisition of the easement on property owned by sisters Mardean Weston and Jean Scott. Land trust Executive Director Scott Boettger said the arrangement will allow Weston to keep living on the property while raising cash for Scott, who has moved away.

"The one sister gets to undo a subdivision and keep the homestead intact," Boettger said. "We can offer these steps to landowners who want to see their land protected."

This is the second time the nonprofit land trust has applied for a grant to buy an easement on the property. In March 2000, the organization obtained county sponsorship for that and a second grant, to buy a scenic easement on a property along state Highway 75 just south of East Fork Road. Only the second grant was approved.

During a meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Dennis Wright said he was happy to see the application resubmitted.

The commissioners unanimously agreed to provide $5,000 of county money to fund the grantís administrative costs and $3,000 to fund half the cost of an appraisal of the property. That will help make up a required 8 percent local match to the federal grant. The land trust will be contributing $10,000 from its endowment fund to that end as well.

"I think this is very exciting," said Commissioner Sarah Michael. "This is a beautiful piece of property."

 

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