Jim Chmelik

Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik’s letter to Donald Trump


Mr. President Elect Trump, you have given hope to a vast majority of Americans, not because you promised to do something for them; rather you promised Americans the opportunity to succeed based upon their abilities and the opportunity to accept the responsibilities that are tossed down before us. For this I am grateful, thank you.

All politics is local and the pressing problems before my local community is the derelict mismanagement of our public lands and the devastation it is bringing to our communities.

Idaho County is the 17th largest land mass county in the United States and yet only has a population of approximately 16,000 residents. With over 5.44 million acres of land we are cash strapped because 85% of these holding are held in trust with the federal government and no property taxes are paid on these lands. We do receive an offset in the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT), which pays pennies on the dollar when compared to the actual value of these lands. We also receive welfare dollars in the form of Secure Rural Schools funding of approximately $7 million dollars a year, which pays us not to be productive with the resources in our own back yard.

Current government laws and policies allow for the direct interference of our Forest Service and our Bureau of Land Management to dutifully carry out their duties has assigned. It is the mischaracterization of laws by the environmental industry that is allowing for the destruction of these treasured assets. Through these same efforts and misuse of federal laws an environmental industry has been spawned which collects the majority of its funding using the Equal Access to Justice Act.

The system is broken and fringe fixes are not what are needed. Bold strokes representing a positive look to the management, utilization, and conservation of our natural resources and the critical role our environment plays in providing for clean air and water are required.

Here are just a few realities we have faced in Idaho County where I serve as a County Commissioner. This all could have been prevented.

In 2012 1.7 million acres burned in Idaho.

246,000 of these acres burned in Idaho County, 95% of these lands were timbered.

Typical timber inventory per acre in the Nez / Clearwater forest is 15,000-25,000 BDFT per acre, source Idaho Department of Lands

Typical historical harvest Nez / Clearwater forest 10,000 BDFT per acre, source USFS

For example purposes let use 5,000 BDFT burned per acre in Idaho County

246,000 acres @5,000 BDFT per acre equates to 1.23 billion BDFT burned

@$300.00 per thousand this equals $369,000,000.00 in burned trees

The multiplier in a timber manufacturing economy is 5-7, lets use 3. This equates to 1 Billion in lost economic activity. That’s lost salaries, which pay taxes, taxes to fund social security, Medicare, Medicaid, Workman’s Compensation, and unemployment taxes.

12.8 Million tons of Green House Gases released into the atmosphere, and our watersheds, source USFS

750,000 dead Animals, (elk, deer, bears, wolverines, mountain goats, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, etc.) This number is actually 5 times higher according to the USFS

The cost to rehabilitate a burned area is 3-9 times the cost of fighting the fire. In 2012 over $75,000,000.00 was spent fighting fire in Idaho County. As you can see the rehabilitation cost are staggering.

Annually we are approaching 2$-3$ billion to fight fires in the West how can we afford to continue this given the facts above. The cost are becoming staggering to the American tax payer when 90% of this can all be avoided through proper management and stewardship of our natural resources. Please keep in mind the stats above only represent 246,000 acres of the 1.7 Million acres that burned in Idaho.

The destruction described above is the result of environmental lawsuits preventing the proper management of our Public Lands. The reality is, the utter destruction of our Public Lands and a cash cow for greedy attorneys. The losers in all this are our local communities and the American Tax Payer. Every year, through litigation, we watch more and more of these resources go up in smoke and American Tax Payers are footing both of the bills

Mr. President Elect Trump, nothing happens until something is tilled or mined from the earth. It provides us the lifeblood to a viable economy. Only in a free market economy can we do both manage and conserve these resources for our immediate purposes and also for future generations to come. Mr. President Elect Trump I hope you see the potential that is before us if we properly manage our Public Lands.

For over twenty years in conjunction with many others we have waged a battle to point these things out and change the laws. From the local to the national level we have fallen on deaf ears. Our Public Land is infected with a crony capitalist ideology that benefits a few and leaves many holding the bag. America should work for everyone not just a few. We cannot continue the current polices as they are.

There is so much more than what is presented here and I would love the opportunity to discuss these matters further with your incoming administration.

In helping to make our local communities great we will “Make America Great.”

Thank you for your time and God speed in the challenges before you.

Sincerely,
Jim Chmelik
Idaho County Commissioner, Chairman
(208) 983-8133

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