Monday, October 25, 2021

Mineral Co. Resource Committee talks mill closing

Mineral Independent | October 13, 2021 12:00 AM

At the September Mineral County Resource Committee meeting, the conversation was mostly devoted to the announcement of the closure of the Idaho Forest Group mill in St. Regis.

The atmosphere of the October meeting was more positive with attendees it the commissioner's conference room and on zoom. Carole Johnson, Superior District U.S. Forest Service Ranger, reported that all the USFS campgrounds have been closed for the season.

This was another huge year for outdoor recreationists, not as big as last year, but enormous in what Mineral County has experienced prior to the pandemic.

More campsites will be discussed for the Quartz and Sloway Campgrounds, and it appears the on-line reservation campsite program is working well.

This method is much easier for the campground hosts as they do not have to handle money and physically track available sites has been eliminated.

“But I want to always have sites for drop-in campers,” said Johnson. “We need to have some for first-come, first-serve as that is how this program began and many still do not understand the reservation method.”

Johnson is also a former director of Glacier Country Montana which is the tourism arm for the state. She maintains an advisory position and says that each county will be interviewed on what they feel they need for tourism and recreation marketing rather than a broad-brush stroke for everyone.

With Mineral County being over 90% public land, recreation opportunities are huge, so niche marketing will be advantageous to the MCRC.

An open house will be held this fall for public input in the St. Regis Community Center for input on shoulder-season campaigns and general advertising for this area.

Johnson made mention of the obvious beetle-kill timber near the Quartz Rest Area which remains under construction and that a timber sale will be coming this winter.

The Thorne Creek fire on the outskirts of Thompson Falls is part of her zone and she reported that a salvage timber sale is in the works.

This must be harvested quickly, or the timber will lose its value. “There is about 600-700 acres that will require very little, if any, road building for this sale,” she reported.

Fall burning has begun and as this continues, it is also when the silviculturists survey for replacement planting needs next spring.

Carolyn Upton, Forest Supervisor for the Lolo National Forest, will be visiting soon as the Idaho/Montana boundary near Lookout Pass Ski Area has been in debate for many years.

Rep. Denley Loge, House District 14, and the Mineral

County Commissioners have been keeping this issue alive for years.

“When I worked and drove for the state (Montana), it became clear that the boundary line moved. Not intentionally but through building and land modifications and new people not aware that the markers had been jostled”, Loge said. “In my

estimation, a big chunk of land slid over to Shoshone County (Idaho) and it’s enough that could affect our PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) payment.”

These are Federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to the existence of nontaxable lands within their boundaries.

Johnson concluded her report saying that this visit from Upton will be soon and that many of the USFS gates will

be closed soon before the general big game hunting season begins.