The free ride on Potlatch Corp. land is over.
The land management company announced its fee-for-use plan Thursday. Starting April 1, those who visit Potlatch land to hunt, fish, hike, or participate in a host of other recreational pursuits will have to purchase access permits.
But at least for now, exclusive access leases for the timber company's holdings won't be offered to the highest bidders. The cost of the permits will vary depending on the type of vehicles people use when recreating on the company's 660,000 acres of timberland in Idaho. They range from $100 for a motor home to $10 for access by foot or bicycle.
The program marks the end of more than a 100-year tradition of Potlatch allowing free access to its Idaho holdings. The fee structure will allow the company to recoup expenses related to public recreation, but the purpose is to turn a profit. A Potlatch official said the company could no longer ignore the income potential of recreation.
"This is simply good business and the right thing to do for our shareholders," said Terry Cundy, coordinator of the recreation program at Lewiston. "But I also believe that if we as a company do not actively manage access and recreation, it will manage us."
According to a news release from the company, recreation spending in the United States generates $289 billion in annual retail sales and $88 billion in national and state tax revenue.
All of the permits will provide annual access to Potlatch land. Potlatch spokesman Matt Van Vleet at Lewiston said the company considers the fees to be reasonable and breaking them down to day-use or multiple day-use permits doesn't make sense. He compared the cost of a passenger automobile permit to that of taking a family of three to dinner and a movie.
"For one night's fun, you could transfer that to a whole year of fun on 660,000 acres."
But the fees can also add up. A family of four that hauls a camp trailer and four ATVs to Potlatch land would spend $50 for a vehicle permit, $50 for the trailer and $25 each for the ATVs -- or $200.
People traveling through Potlatch land to another destination will not need a permit.
"If you are driving across Potlatch land to get to another ownership that is not recreation," Van Vleet said. "If you are picking berries, fishing, camping or bird watching that is recreation."
The permits will be sold over the Internet and will eventually be available at some retailers, such as grocery and sporting goods stores. The permits will not be sold at Potlatch offices.
Each vehicle on Potlatch land will need a permit. But those permits can be used by entire households. For example, if a family purchases a permit for an all-terrain vehicle any immediate member of the family could drive it on Potlatch land.
People who have vehicle use permits will not need additional permits for hiking or biking. For example, if a family of four buys a permit for a sports utility vehicle and uses it to reach Potlatch land, that permit would cover hiking and biking. However, the same is not true of horses. Each horse, mule or other livestock ridden on Potlatch ground would need a permit. A separate permit would also be required if horse riders use a vehicle and trailer to reach Potlatch land.
Potlatch has sold conservation easements on 53,000 acres of land in the St. Joe River basin in recent years. Permits will not be needed to access that land. A contractor hired by the company will be in charge of permit compliance.
The company anticipates instituting a camping site reservation system in 2008. Under that program, camp sites could be saved for a fee.
Although the company is not offering exclusive leases at this time, Van Vleet said it is likely Potlatch will start a lease pilot program late this year. Under that program the 3,000 acres of Potlatch land in the Maggie Butte area near Kamiah could be divided into two parcels and hunting rights would be auctioned to the highest bidders.
Information about the program is posted on the company's Web site at www.potlatch.com. People can also ask questions by calling 866-437-7730 or send an e-mail to www.potlatchrecquestions @verizon.net.
Motor Home $100
Passenger Auto $50
Ridden Livestock $25
under 16 free)
*all permits are annual
Barker may be contacted at email@example.com or at (208) 743-9600, ext. 273.