Letters from the West

Potlatch sells southern Idaho timberlands to Georgia investors

Forestlands near Banks, Idaho.
Forestlands near Banks, Idaho. rbarker@idahostatesman.com

Potlatch Corporation announced last week it has sold 172,000 acres of timberlands in southern Idaho that used to belong to Boise Cascade.

The Spokane-based corporation with long ties to Idaho sold the lands around McCall to Southern Pine Plantations, a private timberland investment company based in Macon, Georgia, for $114 million.

"We purchased the central Idaho timberlands in 2007 intending to take advantage of what was a strong rural recreational real estate market around McCall, Idaho,” said Mike Covey, Potlatch chairman and chief executive officer. “Unfortunately, that market declined significantly due to the recession and the bankruptcy of the Tamarack Resort."

Covey said the offer for less productive Idaho timberlands frees up capital without having to wait for the real estate market to rebound.

These lands are located primarily in Valley, Boise and Adams counties, intermingled with Boise National Forest, Payette National Forest and Idaho state endowment lands along with other nonindustrial private lands. The local Potlatch forest managers are reportedly now working for Southern Pine.

Prior to Potlatch acquiring these lands in 2007 they were owned by Western Pacific Timber and its mercurial owner, Tim Blixseth, who in 2004 had purchased the forestlands from Forest Capital Partners, which had bought it from Boise Cascade.

Blixseth said he wanted to trade the land within the Payette River corridor, and 10,000 acres on the back side of West Mountain. He said he was prepared to trade 115,000 acres of the land in 2004.

But Blixseth said a lot of things that never happened. He remains in jail in Montana on a contempt of court charge.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker