Sunnyside sale nets $900K for state

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A birdseye view above the Sunnyside cedar grove looking across Hawkins Point to Lake Pend Oreille. Photo courtesy FRIENDS OF SUNNYSIDE CEDARS/FACEBOOK

SANDPOINT — A coveted stand of cedar trees on the Sunnyside peninsula sold for $906,660 during an Idaho Department of Lands Timber sale on Wednesday.

The timber sale, which has drawn opposition from Sunnyside residents and visitors, attracted two bidders, IFG Timber out of Coeur d’Alene and McFarland Cascade Holdings Inc. of Boise.

A total of 338 bids were cast over the course of the sale, which took about an hour and a half to conduct. A majority of the bids and counter bids were goosed by only a dollar or two.

IFG Timber ultimately prevailed in the sale.

The gross estimated value of the 1,035,000 board feet of cedar was $445,414, or about $430 per thousand board feet of the aromatic soft wood. It ended up selling for $867 per thousand board feet.

The sale was conducted by IDL on behalf of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, which manages the parcel where the trees are located.

Fish & Game resolved to log the 52-acre parcel because approximately 40 acres was inaccessible to the public.

The proposed sale encountered stiff push-back from Sunnyside residents and those who are lured to the peninsula to access Lake Pend Oreille’s shoreline. Friends of Sunnyside Cedars formed in order to preserve the grove.

Friends of Sunnyside argued the sale would create a loss of habitat, endanger the remaining trees, increase fire danger and sedimentation.

Fish & Game counters that the sale will improve habitat for white-tailed deer, reduce fuel loading and improve conditions for ponderosa pine regeneration.

Friends of Sunnyside Cedars also worked with Fish & Game to find alternatives, such as developing an easement or a new point of public access. However, the group and the state were unable to identify funds to pay for those measures, according to Fish & Game.

The state opted in June to press on with the timber sale partly due to the strengthening timber market.

“It’s not going to be clearcut,” said Jeanne Bradley, a forestry resource supervisor with IDL.

On average, 33 merchantable reserve trees per acre will be left standing, although there are up to 45 leave trees per acre in some spots, said Nick Capobianco, an IDL resource specialist

The contractor is also required to leave at least 10 snags per acre.

“Retention of as many snags as possible will help improve habitat for cavity nesters and other bird types,” a pre-sale report said.

The money raised from the timber sale will be used to pay for Fish & Game wildlife habitat improvement projects in the Panhandle and elsewhere in the state. It will also be specifically used to repair a road that was damaged by a beaver dam breach on Rapid Lightning Creek.

“It cut right through the road,” Miles Benker, a regional wildlife habitat biologist with Fish & Game, said of the dam breach.

Constance Albrecht doesn’t live in the Sunnyside area, but is often drawn to it as a bird watcher. She does not oppose timber management, although she was saddened to hear that more of the increasingly fragmented forest was going under the knife.

“I’m pretty sad and unhappy that this is going forward, but not surprised,” she said on Wednesday.

Albrecht said the timber sale process in Idaho affords little opportunity for public involvement and a worrying low level of environmental review.

“It’s not a citizen-friendly prcess,” said Albrecht.

A statement from Friends of Sunnyside Cedars was pending on Wednesday evening.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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