SANDPOINT — Bonner County commissioners unanimously adopted the county’s controversial Natural Resource Plan on Tuesday.
“We are blessed with a lot of great natural resources and this plan states what our goals and objectives are for the use of those resources,” said commission chairman Glen Bailey.
The plan was simultaneously lauded and assailed during a public hearing on the 95-page document last month.
Supporters of the plan contend it is vital because it requires federal resource managers to coordinate with county officials on matters affecting the use of public lands. Without a formal plan in place, local coordination with federal officials cannot be invoked.
“Federal officials are only required to adhere to the terms and conditions of officially approved and adopted resource-related plans,” Bailey said.
The plan has the staunch support of conservative elements of the community, but has drawn opposition from those of more moderate political bents.
Opponents of the plan argue that it is groundwork in the struggle over federally managed lands and throws down a welcome mat for resource extraction while ignoring climate change and other conservation-minded initiatives to protect water quality and wildlife habitat.
Public testimony at a January public hearing was overwhelmingly opposed to the plan, although commissioners resolved to adopt it in the hope of bringing the county’s chair to the table when the use of and access to public lands are at issue.
Commissioner Jeff Connolly said he supported the aim of the document but said that there was no way to strike a balance that perfectly reflected the various and diverse views about public land use and access.
“You’re never going to get it just right, it appears,” he said.
The plan will have no effect on state-owned endowment lands, which generate revenue for public education in Idaho. The plan’s effect on other state lands is less clear.
“I’m not that sure that this pertains to state lands at all because they’re not mandated by the federal government to follow the coordination rules. I’m really quite curious if this will have any standing with the state,” said Connolly.
Commissioner Dan McDonald said the plan was the product of more than four years of work by a panel of citizen volunteers with an interest in public land use and access. He said the Natural Resource Committee conducted more than 40 public workshops meetings and hearings in order to develop and refine the plan.
“I applaud their effort,” said McDonald.
Bailey said the plan will be reviewed and revised if need be every two years.
“It is an ongoing work in progress,” he said.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.