In 2016, the Wilks brothers of Texas purchased private land between Smith’s Ferry and Cascade, Idaho. This land was previously owned by Boise-Cascade and Potlatch and had been used for hunting, snowmobiling, logging and more. Once the the Wilks brothers acquired the land, they immediately closed it to all users and cancelled logging contracts. Valley County was able to purchase just over 4 acres of this land from the Wilks brothers in order to continue to provide access to area trails that serve snowmobilers, four-wheelers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and others. Some have lost access to land that they have used for years but it has always been private land. Here are a few articles for more information on the private land transfer.
By Sandra Mitchell, Public Land Director, & Larry Laxson, Valley County Parks and Recreation Director
The Wilks brothers, two Texas billionaires, purchased 172,000 acres of private property in Valley County that was previously owned by Boise Cascade and then Potlatch. That hit the news and the uproar began. The media certainly didn’t help by jumping to many incorrect assumptions! Albert Einstein was right when he said, “Assumptions are made and most assumptions are wrong”.
Here is what is Correct:
• DF Development LLC which is owned by two gentlemen from Texas purchased the property.
• All logging contracts were cancelled. They will be reissued according to the guidelines of the new owners.
• Most public access through their property is done through cost share agreements or easements. The new owners are willing to work with Valley County on any access concerns.
• Representatives of the company are currently having regular conversations with Larry Laxson, Valley County Parks and Recreation about future use of their land.
• This company owns property in Idaho County and according to a County Commissioner there, they are fine landowners and good partners.
• The owners of the property are not experienced with recreation needs but they are more than willing to listen and learn.
• While touring the land before the purchase, they became concerned about over-logging, the size and condition of the elk herds and the amount of GARBAGE in and around the dispersed camping sites.
If we are going to be allowed to continued access to their property beyond what is covered by easements, we are going to have to prove that we can be good neighbors and dependable partners. We will need to demonstrate that they can trust us to use their land in a responsible manner. Remember they are under no legal obligation to allow public access anymore than you have to let people use your property. It is truly a privilege and we must respect their right to determine how their property is used.
A good lesson for all of us. Verify our easements. Make sure they are Easements Appurtenant so they last into perpetuity.
Another case of bad information from the media! If you believe everything you hear on TV news, you would think that all grooming has been shut down for this winter near Idaho City because of the Pioneer Fire. That simply isn’t true! No decisions about grooming have been made. The fire will soon be 100% contained. At that time, the Forest Service will be able to tell what needs to be done before grooming can begin. I plan on attending a FS tour of the area at the end of the month and will be able to see firsthand what the problems are and how we can resolve them.
It is hard to find good news when it comes to catastrophic fires but there is some. The District Ranger in Idaho City, Brandt Petersen, is one of the most dedicated fair-minded Rangers with whom I have ever worked. He understands how important the area is to sledders and to the local economy. ISSA will work closely with the Forest Service and IDPR to get as many areas as possible opened.
Public Land Director
Valley County Parks
and Recreation Director”