Idaho

Video of run-in revives worries caused by Texas billionaires’ Idaho land purchase

More than 2,000 Idahoans gathered at the Idaho Statehouse March 4 for a Public Lands Rally that featured hunters, fishermen, hikers, bikers and others who treasure public access to Idaho’s wildlands.
More than 2,000 Idahoans gathered at the Idaho Statehouse March 4 for a Public Lands Rally that featured hunters, fishermen, hikers, bikers and others who treasure public access to Idaho’s wildlands. kjones@idahostatesman.com

A video showing a run-in between a security guard and a Valley County recreationist crystallized local worries about two West Texas billionaires’ purchase of a vast swath of Southwest Idaho forest that previously had been open to the public.

The video, posted by James Sheets on Monday evening, had been viewed on YouTube more than 1,200 times by mid-afternoon Wednesday. It shows a security guard from D.F. Development, the Texas-based company owned by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, confronting Sheets about trespassing on private property.

The incident happened last week on Forest Road 409, better known as Clear Creek Road. The 172,000 acres of timberland, primarily in Valley, Boise and Adams County, were sold to the Wilks Brothers company last summer.

The sale worried hunters and others who enjoyed access to the land, and the network of roads running through it, under previous owners Boise Cascade and Potlatch Corp. In September, the new owners let Idaho Fish and Game know the property would no longer be open to hunting. They also canceled leases with Valley County to main roads that provided access to snowmobile trails on public lands.

In the case of last week’s confrontation, the security guard was in the wrong because the man’s vehicle was on public property, Valley County Roads Department Superintendent Jeff McFadden told KIVI-TV, Channel 6.

“The gentleman that filmed it is parked on a wide spot on the side of the road,” McFadden said, and Valley County owns an easement that extends 33 feet on each side from the center of the road. Land beyond that easement is private.

A statement released by DF Development says: “An employee of a private security firm retained by DF Development came upon a stopped vehicle on a public road bordered on each side by property that we own. The guard believed that the owner of the vehicle intended to unload and then operate the off-road vehicles that were on the trailer. The guard’s intention in speaking to the owner was simply to reinforce that the land on either side of the road was private.”

McFadden told KIVI-TV that more public-private confusion in the area is likely because although Clear Creek Road is public, other roads threading through the private property are not.

“It sounded like the D.F. Development security officer did not know if that was a public road, a private road or a forest service road,” McFadden said.

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