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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 30 - August 5, 2003


Where’s Blaine
County’s buyoff?

The release of Rep. Mike Simpson’s draft of a wilderness plan for the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains cannot come too soon.

The number of trial balloons floating out of the congressman’s discussions with various interest groups is obscuring the sunlight that ought to be shining on the issue.

No one except the parties involved in putting a wilderness bill together—an invitation-only group that apparently includes interests from wilderness to off-road-vehicle trails—knows what Simpson is drafting.

Simpson’s office keeps releasing tantalizing little tidbits of information to the public.

One of the tidbits is a blockbuster.

Simpson’s Boulder White Clouds wilderness bill would offer up to 16,000 acres of public lands in some kind of trade to Custer County. In turn, the county could offer the presumably high-value properties for sale to private developers for an estimated $10 million. The money could be used for education and economic development.

Custer County’s state Rep. Lenore Barrett and her constituents are true-blue wilderness haters who have spent years bad-mouthing any kind of wilderness anywhere—especially in their backyard.

This had led some observers to call Simpson’s idea an artistic piece of compromise.

There’s a better description: Buyoff.

If there’s to be a feeding frenzy at the buyoff basin, the good congressman should invite everyone to the party.

No one has invited Blaine County to get in line for the goodies. Clearly, its support is being taken for granted.

Large portions of the Boulder Mountains lie inside the boundaries of Blaine County. Why shouldn’t Blaine get its piece of the pie?

If wilderness designation will be bad for Custer County—bad enough to require a buyoff—how can it not be bad for Blaine County?

Blaine County could take a leadership role in the issue. If county leaders here know anything, they know development.

If the wilderness deal hinges on making money, Blaine County knows how to do it. Our elected officials will recognize immediately that $10 million for 16,000 prime development acres is chump change at $625 an acre.

Maybe it’s time for Blaine County officials to change their tune. Apparently, being opposed to wilderness is going to pay. With a show of opposition, the county can have its cake and eat it too—wilderness designation and a pot of economic development money in the bank.

After all, what pays in Custer, ought to pay in Blaine.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.