Recently I learned that I have some new neighbors in Valley County: Dan and Farris Wilks, brothers in Cisco, Texas, who own DF Development. The Wilks brothers purchased a large swath of land in Valley and Adams counties formerly owned by Boise Cascade and then Potlach Corporation.
I may not have known about the sale but for the fact that DF Development erected signs and gates throughout the property closing access to trails and roads which had formerly been made available to the public. If you look at Rocky Barker’s Sept. 29, 2016 Idaho Statesman article headlined “Idaho hunters learn Texas billionaires are locking them out at the last minute,” you will find a map of the property purchased by the Wilks brothers and you will see that there are now multiple areas of public lands which are landlocked by the Wilks’ privately-owned property.
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The timber companies granted access to the public for hiking, biking, snowmobiling, hunting and other recreation, but so far the Wilks brothers have refused to grant access or discuss their intent for the property. When I called Idaho Fish and Game recently I learned that due to the lack of public access, Fish and Game has stopped stocking Fish Lake, a public reservoir which has now been landlocked by the Wilks, and they plan to drain the lake later this summer. This is a real shame due to the beauty of this spot and the number of nearby families that enjoyed fishing and recreating there.
Mr. and Mr. Wilks, if you are reading this, welcome to Idaho. I understand your concerns as private property owners and would love to speak with you and help you preserve your interests. I am also a runner, biker and avid lover of the outdoors in Idaho. I would love to introduce you to the neighborhood by taking you out to one of my favorite restaurants in the area and then showing you some of the spectacular sights that Mother Nature has created here.
Let’s work together to preserve them and to make sure that the public can have access to public areas while also ensuring that your private property interests are protected. I believe there is common ground, and I would like to help find it.
Idahoans, let’s not take for granted both the private landholders who grant access as well as the public interest groups who work hard to ensure that access remains. Leave no trace and give time and money to support conservation efforts when you can. This experience with DF Development in Valley County has made me acutely aware and appreciative of the work that Ridges to Rivers does to preserve and protect our Foothills trails system in Boise.
Lastly, just be good neighbors to one another. When we throw up walls and gates without speaking and trying to understand each another we cannot solve anything. So let’s come to the table and talk. Preferably over some great local food.
Samia McCall is an attorney and mediator in Boise. She is also an adjunct professor at Concordia University School of Law.