The following article appeared in the Challis Messenger Online
October 14, 2004.
Hosac proposed land exchange with City of Stanley
By Anna Means
Most people don’t mind Custer County benefiting from a wilderness bill,
but some don’t want lands transferred to accomplish it. On the other hand,
county leaders feel taxable land keeps on giving while Congressional
appropriations eventually dry up.
And so begins the debate on the specifics of Congressman Mike Simpson’s
wilderness/economic/recreation bill introduced in Congress last week.
A group of Stanley residents have started a petition drive asking
Congress to pay up on the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and
forget land grants.
Approximately 1,100 acres are on the table as part of the
Central Idaho Economic and Development Recreation Act (CIEDRA). The
county, Stanley and Mackay stand to gain taxable acres if the bill is
The Stanley group, calling themselves Central Idahoans for
Accountability in Government, are particularly opposed to 960 acres in the
Cape Horn area going to the county.
The group objects to these “land giveaways.” Instead, they
prefer Congress pony up the full amounts allowed under the Payment in Lieu
of Taxes program.
Loss of taxable lands
County Commissioners Cliff Hansen and Wayne Butts told the Messenger
that Custer County has the smallest amount of taxable land in the state.
More lands were lost to tax rolls when the Sawtooth National Recreation
Area (SNRA) was created in the 1970s. While federal appropriations are
enticing, they tend to diminish into nothing, but “taxable land goes on
Hansen said the land in question is on Dry Creek east of
Cape Horn Guard Station. He said it has potential for development because
there’s a road to it, power lines run across it, no streams will be
affected and there are no subdivisions around to impact other property
He said the land will eventually go into private hands,
but there are no grand plans to create high density development. The
commissioners won’t be handling the property themselves but will appoint a
Land Trust Board to administer all lands acquired through CIEDRA. He said
restrictions will definitely be placed on any development.
Aside from Dry Creek, the plan is to give the City of
Stanley 177 acres near city limits. The county is to receive another 20
acres from BLM along the Mackay Reservoir. The City of Mackay is supposed
to get 160 acres west of town from the BLM.
The Stanley group objects to development around Cape Horn, saying it is
critical wildlife habitat, and development will have an unacceptable
impact on elk and salmon. They would prefer Congress give a direct and
permanent appropriation to the county rather than hand over land.
“If the diagnosis is not enough money for Custer County
government and services, then the remedy is to fix PILT,” said Marie
Osborn, the nurse practitioner who staffed the Stanley clinic for nearly
30 years. “Sacrificing our children’s heritage and some of Idaho’s most
precious places won’t fix Custer County’s problems.”
PILT was created in 1976 to pay counties for nontaxable
federal lands within their borders to offset the lack of a tax base. The
funding formula takes into account number of acres, but more money goes to
counties with more people. Funds go directly to the county and according
to County Clerk Ethel Peck, are used for operating expenses.
The money doesn’t go to the city or other taxing districts
(schools, medical facilities, roads, etc.).
PILT has never been fully funded. The Stanley group would
like to see that change, plus have the federal government pay the amount
not funded since 1976. They figure that should give the county plenty of
money to work with and keep land free from development.
They would also like PILT rules to change so it could be
used for EMS services, for schools (especially a high school in Stanley)
and roads. They want the formula changed so sparsely populated counties
with a high percentage of public lands could get a bigger piece of the
pie. Lastly, they want it changed from an annual appropriation to an
entitlement indexed to inflation.
Laurel Hall, Simpson’s office, said CIEDRA was introduced
in Congress last week, but they recessed shortly afterwards. That means
the bill will have to be reintroduced into the Resources Committee when
Congress reconvenes in January.
Hall said Simpson and staff will be discussing details and
issues such as land v PILT in the interim. She said the bill introduced in
January may or may not look the same once all the concerns have been