GRANGEVILLE, Idaho — A plan by the U.S. Forest Service to relocate the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest supervisor’s offices away from Grangeville and Orofino will hurt those communities, Idaho and Clearwater county officials say.
The Forest Service announced last week that moving the supervisor’s office to Kamiah will save $2 million a year. The agency is leasing a building in Orofino through 2014. Another building is being leased in Grangeville with that lease expiring in 2022.
“What this means is a net loss of 45 jobs sometime between now and when their lease expires in 2022,” Idaho County Commissioner James Rockwell told the Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/woTe0L ). “That’s a very big deal.
“The loss of 45 good-paying jobs in any of our communities has a direct impact on the value of real estate,” he said. “It has a direct impact on the retail in that town because you’ve got 45 fewer families buying things. So in a worst-case scenario, we’ve got 10 years to plug the holes.”
Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said eventually 73 employees are expected to work at renovated offices in Kamiah, with money the agency saves being used for on-the-ground management and public service.
“I feel like the Forest Service should contribute to us in different ways,” if the supervisor’s office is closed, said Clearwater County Commission Chairman Don Ebert. “It wouldn’t be so bad if they had an active timber management program. That’s what’s really hurting.
“The supervisor’s office leaving Clearwater County is a great disappointment to us, but it’s not the bigger picture. It’s just a symptom. There are other, ongoing problems,” he said.
When the move is complete, Brazell said 27 employees will still remain in Orofino. He said 45 employees who are part of the smoke jumper base and interagency dispatch center will stay in Grangeville.
The Forest Service manages about 85 percent of the land in Idaho County. Changes in management practices of the forest over the last several decades have caused shifts in surrounding communities, many of them for years having depended economically on producing forest products.
“I can get nostalgic about the times when the forest was multi-use and the forest managed for the people and there was an excellent relationship between the people and the forest,” Rockwell said. “When it was multi-use, the schools had plenty of money, our main streets were full. It’s just sad that we seem to have lost so much of that pride that went along with the working forest.”