County Commissioners meet, discuss Pacific Northwest Trail

By McKenzie Williams


On April 3, The Lincoln County Board of Commissioner met for a regular session.

Commissioner Peck opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance then at 9:30 they discussed Selenium levels in Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River. Dave Hadden of Headwaters Montana and Mike Rooney of Montana Trout Unlimited discussed concerns and commissioner Bennet commented, “I think we are all in agreement that we would like to see more studies.” Bennet will draft a letter of support for federal funding to continue monitoring and research of selenium concentrations in the Kootenai river and reservoir.

At 10 a.m. Jennifer McCully of the Lincoln County Health Department presented regarding a $60,000 grant from Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The grant will provide financial support to the Lincoln County Best Beginnings program  to continue their work on local early childhood system development. A motion to approve the Delivery of Professional Services Contract No. 1902PROS0407 for the Best Beginnings, Early Childhood Grant carried unanimously.

McCully also informed the commission that the Headwaters Foundation has chosen Lincoln County to conduct an early pilot project. Lincoln County will receive $200,000 annually for six years. A motion to approve hiring an individual under the Headwaters grant carried unanimously.

The March 27 meeting minutes were then approved and Commissioner Letcher discussed receiving a request from the Community Action Partnership to serve on their board which he agreed to do.  No public comments were made during the appointed timeslot.

At 11 a.m., Boundary County Idaho and Kootenai Tribe of Idaho brought up the topic of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). The PNT is a 1,200 mile route which is a primarily a non-motorized trail providing recreation opportunities along the way. The trail is mainly used by hikers, backpacker, and equestrians.

Boundary County Commissioner, Dan Dinning, discussed how they put together a large group of people including the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and other stakeholders that have looked at the impacts of the PNT and have developed an alternative trail on the Idaho side.

Rhonda Voge provided a map showing the congressionally designated trail and the preferred alternative trail route.  Scott Soults of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, pointed out the Idaho side’s concerns regarding the route. They also discussed  how rerouting the trail minimizes road walking, stay’s out of bear management areas, and the trail will mainly be on existing trails instead of creating new trail.

During the meeting Commissioner Peck said, “When we talk about the trail from a timber standpoint and moving the trail into a real suitable timber base is not an option if looking for his support.”

The group openly discussed the following ideas and concerns:

  • Grizzly habitat
  • Mileage increases of the alternative routes
  • Private properties and undeveloped properties
  • Keeping the trail scenic
  • Length of designated trail vs. proposed alternative trail
  • Motorized and non-motorized use areas
  • Economic and social value
  • Trail usage increase
  • Trail management plan
  • Undeveloped/graveled and paved roads
  • Suitable timber base areas in Montana
  • Impacts on general forest area

Darren Colwell speaking as a citizen of Lincoln County, not as a county employee, stated he doesn’t feel like the support for moving the trail in Montana is there. He expressed his frustration and confusion regarding the big push to reroute the current trail in Montana.

Commissioner Peck stated that the commissioners have a lot of other priorities and that it would be helpful if the information was compiled in one document that is understood and is visible.

Commissioner Bennett commented that Lincoln County has not received all of the five trail recommendations from Yaak Valley Forest Council. They would like them all on  one color coded map for review. Commissioner Bennet also expressed there is still a lot of work before we can offer a recommendation to our congressional people and partner with Idaho.

Commissioner Peck noted, that once mapping of the trail gets nailed down well, the next step will be to hold public hearings; its their opinion that matters more than ours.

In a follow-up email to The Montanian, Robyn King of  the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition (KFSC) said, “It’s obvious that there is quite a bit of confusion about this issue and I think the KFSC taking this under our common ground committee process is a good step forward in resolving and clarifying the process as well as creating a robust collaborative process in which our communities in Montana can weigh in on the best route for our communities, the hikers, and all the resource issues that will be impacted by a scenic trail running through a working forest. A good solution exists and I’m confident that we’ll find it!”

At 1:30 a motion by Commissioner Bennett to approve preliminary plat for the Rocky Mountain Way Subdivision subject to planning staff conditions and recommendation carried unanimously.

Another motion to approve the Teisberg Family Transfer subject to planning staff conditions and recommendations also carried unanimously.

At 2 p.m. Joe Nagle,  provided a maintenance department outline of past and future projects including three planned for the summer of 2019. The discussion topics included the Eureka Library sidewalk and entrance, a room inspection at the Troy Library because of moss, roof inspection at the courthouse, flagpole replacement at the courthouse and general curb appeal concerns, rental of the Jaycee Clubhouse, purchasing and replacing a heat pump in the sheriff’s office (4 more need replacing $2,500.00 each), and the maintenance budget.

Commissioner Peck commented on the compliments that have been received about the courthouse lawncare as well as the great Christmas decorations, stating that it does make a difference to have good curb appeal.

Nagle asked about potentially advertising the lease use of the Pioneer Center to recuperate some maintenance costs.  The commission discussed the idea and will continue to look into it.

Commissioner Peck expressed that Joe has done a great job, especially with such a large workload for one person.