By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff Writer
The Bonner County Commissioners held a workshop Wednesday to review the county’s Natural Resource Plan, drafted by the Bonner County Natural Resource Committee.
“This plan is meant to create an interface with federal government agencies to work with county officials in making certain as much as they possibly can that the federal government can coordinate and correlate plans with the county,” said committee chairman Cornel Rasor, who also read the federal coordination clause out loud. Explaining coordination policy, which requires the federal government take into consideration local government plans, was a large part of the workshop.
“We are not advocating this (plan) supersede the federal government. This is simply a strong suggestion that we follow coordination policies,” he said.
Sagle resident Susan Drumheller said earlier this week that while she understands the concept of coordination between federal and local governments, she has concerns about whether this plan accurately reflects the views of everyone in Bonner County.
“My concern is that some of the statements and policies in there don’t really reflect the values of the majority of people who live in this county,” she said. “Some statements are not necessarily protective of our natural resources, in my opinion. It endorses the public lands takeover movement, which is something that really concerns me.”
Drumheller said a collaborative group like the Panhandle Forest Collaborative, of which both commissioners Jeff Connolly and Glen Bailey have been a part of, is a far better example of a group working to have natural resources managed with everyone concerned at the table.
“This (plan) is just going to create more contention than collaboration,” she said. “Why not put your resources and energy into collaboration instead of some kind of statement that makes it sound like the county has veto power?”
That sense of “veto power” is something several people at the workshop brought up in public comment. Rasor assured them there was no such power under the county’s Natural Resource Plan.
“(The plan) is not saying, ‘you will, you will,’” Bailey added. “It’s saying, ‘we would ask you to…’”
Commissioner Dan McDonald described the plan as a “non-binding document that just ratifies the position the county has had for years with respect to the (federal) coordination clause and can be used as a handout to federal and state agencies when they ask for our plan.”
“Unfortunately, the rumor mill has been in high gear, and we have received a few emails full of inaccurate interpretations of what some are claiming is in the plan along with a perceived power that the plan doesn’t have,” McDonald said.
Idaho Department of Lands Area Manager Tom Fleer said at the meeting that his biggest concern with the plan is the “lumping together” of state and federal lands. He said some state lands do not qualify as public lands. He also questioned the definitive position that the county doesn’t want any more land designated as public.
“This (plan) calls for no more public land in the county. Is that really what you guys want?” he asked. “As a representative of IDL, this document does not work for us.”
Connolly advocated for continued work on the Natural Resource Plan, commending the committee for their efforts but also expressing concerns with the complexity of the document, describing it as “daunting.”
Bailey emphasized that the draft is a “living document,” and that work will continue to be done on the Natural Resource Plan. Read the plan at bonnercounty.us/bonner-county-natural-resources-committee.