The Idaho Legislature voted Thursday to put back in the budget $7 million of funding for a proposed easement on 13,000 acres of timber land in Bonner County known as Clagstone Meadows. The bill now goes to Gov. Butch Otter, who had included the funds in his budget plan.
The House approved the funding, 48-21 in the afternoon. The Senate added its support, 22-11 in the evening.
The money would buy an easement, Stimson Timber Co. would keep 13,000 acres of forests and lakes undeveloped instead of building 1,200 homes, condos and a golf course. Several lawmakers and the Idaho Freedom Foundation objected to the Idaho Department of Lands and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game passing these federal funds through the Forest Legacy Program.
The Freedom Foundation and Republican Rep. Heather Scott opposed using the federal pass-through dollars on the easement that would keep the land in timber production permanently and allow public access and the protection of wildlife habitat. Two Bonner commissioners had initially written a letter in opposition, which convinced lawmakers to pull the budgets of the Idaho Departments of Land and Fish and Game off the House floor and strip the funding from the budgets.
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But Tuesday the commission rescinded the letter, which prompted JFAC members to vote separate items to restore them to the budgets.