When it comes to enforcing scenic easements on private property within Idaho's Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the Forest Service plays hardball.
went to U.S. District Court in March 1995, when it discovered a
barn-style addition to Kenneth and Sharon Walker's A-frame. The
Forest Service had paid previous owners of the property $26,000 in
1984 for a "scenic easement," a guarantee that the property would
remain as it was. Last December, the agency announced it had won
the suit and the couple must remove the addition by
Conflict over the recreation area's charter
- to protect the mountains, preserve open space and maintain the
pastoral character of the valleys below - is not new. Proposals to
build two subdivisions on private land have already sparked
controversy (HCN, 12/9/96).
The lawsuit over the
couple's addition, however, marks the first time in the recreation
area's 24-year history that the Forest Service has gone to court to
enforce a scenic easement. According to its terms, no construction
could occur without prior approval from the Forest
Sharon Walker called the agency's
actions excessive. "The Forest Service is way out of bounds," she
said. "I cannot see what their problem was. I did not believe that
we needed their approval."
While Walker said she
had spent "several thousand dollars' on the addition, Sawtooth
ranger Paul Ries estimates that the Forest Service spent almost
$90,000 of taxpayer money to enforce the easement. He says the
victory was worth it. "If you go to trial and you lose, you're in
deep trouble," said Ries. "But if you go to trial and you win,
you've got something to hang your hat on."
works for the Idaho Mountain Express.