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Andrew Ottoson

Stories by Andrew

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Audience presses Labrador on issues

Rep. Raul Labrador’s visit last Friday, Sept. 2, marked the end of his first tour of the district he represents in Congress, where has shown a willingness to clash with Republican leaders such as former Speaker John Boehner.

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Bush quarterbacks Grangeville

Bulldog of the Week

Grangeville High School sophomore Booker Bush was doing something he had never done before when he got the start under center last Friday night, Aug. 26.

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Basketball takes Bruner to College of Idaho

One of the area’s most decorated football players, Jake Bruner, is off to College of Idaho to play basketball this fall.

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Bears outbattle Bulldogs, barely

After preserving an 18-15 victory over Grangeville when TJ Wiltse’s 40-yard crack at a last-second kick to tie deflected off a teammate, the host Bears threw a very public party for themselves last Friday night, Aug. 26.

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Danly to join Walla Walla softball program

Next level athletes

Prairie Pirates softball standout Hailey Danly — a talented setter with the PHS volleyball program — is headed to Walla Walla Community College for college softball and pre-engineering.

Clear Creek project withdrawn by USFS

After years of looking at it, the Forest Service will take another look at the Clear Creek restoration. In December 2015, Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests supervisor Cheryl Probert opted for restoration in the Clear Creek watershed. Her decision on the Clear Creek Integrated Restoration Project came after years of analysis, which had found that by exercising care during harvest and decommissioning disused roads it would be possible to reduce sedimentation east of Kooskia in the long term while also bringing 85 million board feet of timber to market.

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2,084-acre Gun Club Fire linked to tracers shot Aug. 17

During the Idaho County Commission meeting Tuesday morning, Aug. 23, commission chairman Jim Chmelik said the Gun Club Fire started when tracer rounds were fired by “a couple of people who were members of the gun club” who, he said, “did step up and say ‘we did it.’” “They didn’t try to hide it or anything,” Chmelik said, “but they might as well have just gone down there with bottle rockets.”

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State agency looks to secure S.F. Clearwater River fishing access at Harpster, aims to keep anglers from being shut out

IDFG working to buy Scott property

A popular fishing and swimming spot in Harpster may become public property, if the sale of a nine-acre private tract of riverbed goes forward this fall.

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Bulldogs take the field for first-ever soccer match

The Grangeville High School soccer team took the field for the first time Saturday, Aug. 20 at Moscow, where the Bears' big advantages -- size, experience, numbers and the home field -- proved too much for the upstarts to overcome.

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Uhlenkott to join Blue Mountain volleyball squad

Next level athletes

Among the many aspects of her athletic ability, Krystin Uhlenkott’s ability to jump high and spike hard stands out in hindsight — not only for how that skill made her one of setter Hailey Danly’s go-to girls, but also for propelling her all the way to Pendleton, Ore.

Tribal lawsuit casts doubt on restoration

Clear Creek at issue:

An October 2015 difference over $1.2 million foretold part of a full-blown federal case that may undercut the Clearwater Basin Collaborative’s long-sought restoration of the Clear Creek drainage southeast of the Middle Fork Clearwater River’s confluence with the South Fork.

High speed chase tests system

Pursuit vehicles had to switch to local frequencies as they passed from county to county

A scofflaw tested the emergency communication system last week, coincidentally, on the day after the Idaho County Commission appointed two men to a regional board that helps keep radio connections working smoothly during incidents that involve multiple jurisdictions.

Joint landfill discussion continues

Idaho County citizens may be on the hook for half of the $1.3 million estimated cost of starting up

During the next year, depending on how negotiations proceed, Idaho County citizens may be on the hook for half of the $1.3 million estimated cost of starting up a five-county joint landfill to be located near Council. That’s because Idaho County would be delivering half the tonnage to the new landfill – about 40 tons of solid waste per day.

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Making The Cut

Competitors get the crosscut saw in line, ready for the Jack and Jill event at Saturday’s Aug. 13 logging show, part of the annual Elk City Days celebration. For event results, see page 8A.

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Stowell heading to New Hope Christian College

Next level athletes

Unlike many others who go on to college sports after successful times at Grangeville High School, Abigail Stowell didn’t start playing her sport of choice early in childhood.

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First GHS soccer squad takes the field

Bulldogs to visit Moscow Aug. 20

It’s soccer season. Soccer practice started statewide on Monday, Aug. 8, and a 6 a.m. session at Grangeville High School marked the first time the Bulldogs have taken the field for this sport.

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Second large crane arrives for work on Manning bridge

As work on the Manning Crevice Bridge continues, a second large crane arrived last week by way of Burgdorf and micropiles that form a key part of the base were finished. On top of the micropiles, a 20-foot tall concrete abutment will eventually be constructed, and on top of the abutment, a 75-foot tall steel tower will eventually be placed.

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Wildfires kept in check

Riggins fire burns 49 acres

Initial attack quelled several new fires in the Grangeville Interagency Dispatch fire zone last weekend, and the 2,400-acre Cedar Fire forced new closures in the deep woods 11 miles south of the Powell Ranger Station.

Commission OKs natural resource plan at meeting

Nearly three months after its first public comment period ended, and after several rounds of editing, the Idaho County Commission adopted a new natural resource plan at the board’s regular meeting Aug. 9. The plan stakes out the county’s position on numerous land management issues, and is intended for use by project planners at other levels of government.

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County proposed budget up

Increase largely due to justice, jail, murder trial issues

The amount of property tax Idaho County requires to pay public expenses is going up, but the commission’s decision isn’t expected to make a big change to the rate most homeowners pay. “A good portion of the increase is due to bad people,” commissioner Skip Brandt said, noting that a new murder trial for Mark Lankford has been budgeted in, as have changes in the county’s adult probation, public defense and jail systems.

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Brown off to Weber State on track scholarship

Next level athletes

Alongside other 2016ers, Madison Brown had boosted the girls volleyball and basketball programs’ high expectations from the time she was a freshman, but her capstone season came to an abrupt end when her knee gave way after she went to block an opponent’s shot last winter.

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Krush wins seventh, lead league

The Kooskia Krush crushed their way to a 7-0 record in the adult co-ed city softball league with a key win over previously undefeated Brew Crew on Monday night, Aug. 1.

Investigation into Kooskia fire cause

Clear Creek Fire contained at 457 acres

The Clear Creek Fire, which sprung up last Thursday afternoon, remains under investigation as to its cause and under patrol and mop-up on account of there still being a few hot spots in the 457-acre burned area between Leitch Creek and Clear Creek.

County to take full 3 percent tax levy for FY2017 budget

The Idaho County Commissioners aimed to extend the run of eight years without an increase in the overall levy amount – but even after cutting $140,000 from the amount requested by department heads and even after balancing another $277,000 in “cash forward,” they approved $89,000 in additional taxes during their regular public meeting Aug. 2. That bumps the total amount to be levied during the coming fiscal year by 3 percent – the maximum increase allowed under state law – to $2,956,000.

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Clear Creek Fire 100 percent contained at 457 acres

The Clear Creek Fire, the human cause of which remains under investigation, has been contained after burning 457 acres since it sprung up Thursday afternoon, Idaho Department of Lands public information officer Sheldon Keafer told the Free Press Saturday evening.

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Clear Creek fire estimated at 300 acres this morning; 100 on it today

The Clear Creek Fire, which was estimated at 200 acres last night and has been estimated at 300 acres this morning. Firefighters have line all around it, and are working to strengthen the lines before calling it contained.

Private land struck by wildfire; IDL battling season's first significant fire

The Idaho Department of Lands in cooperation with the Forest Service, Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association and Idaho Department of Corrections battled the first major local wildfire of the season Thursday, July 28.

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Parks to join College of Idaho defensive backfield

Next level athletes

Austin Parks is headed to College of Idaho where head coach Mike Moroski and defensive coordinator Chris Jewell call the shots.

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Football opportunity takes Lindsley to C. of I.

Next level athletes

With his older brother establishing himself at Boise State as well as a pair of 2A titles in the shot put and discus of his own, Cole Lindsley’s aptitude for throwing is no secret in southern Idaho. His prowess in the field was such that even with the 2A championship Grangeville High won on the gridiron last fall, not many colleges offered him the chance to continue with both.

County looks to hold levy amount same in budget for FY17

Budget hearing set for Tuesday, Sept. 6

During the budget process the last nine years, the Idaho County Commission has kept the total amount to be levied from taxpayers the same: $2,867,566. Because the value of private property in the county changes year-to-year, the property tax rate homeowners see on their year-end bills could be higher or lower than it was last year, but commissioners have long argued that holding the total levy amount the same year after year amounts to holding the line on taxes.

Disgusted ... that said, hoping for finality in a Lankford sentencing, conviction


This year marks 25 years since the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in dissent about a troubling case in which his colleagues ruled our local court had flubbed the process by which Bryan Lankford was sentenced to death. Earlier this week, the Idaho Supreme Court undid the outcome of the related case against Mark Lankford.

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Brandt stumps for Trump at GOP convention in Cleveland

Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt went to Cleveland and helped steer the state’s delegation clear of the insurrection that swept the Colorado delegation out the door on the first day at the Republican National Convention last week. Colorado, like Idaho, had backed Sen. Ted Cruz during the primary; Idaho, unlike Colorado, awarded the majority of its delegates in the clarifying light of a statewide primary vote.

Court orders new trial for Mark Lankford

Prosecution error violated ‘fair trial’ for twice-convicted double-murderer

Robert and Cheryl Bravence were murdered in the woods in 1983 and justice for them has followed a twisted path, which this week turned, again, in favor of a man juries have convicted twice already. Mark Lankford is headed for yet another trial.

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Harris heading to Jamestown on QB scholarship

Next level athletes

Bulldogs quarterback Layton Harris made a name for himself locally on the football field, and the outward ripples of that will take him to Jamestown, N.D. this fall, where his new coaching staff finds itself in need of a passer.

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Proposed fee irks Snake River guides

Some local Snake River tourism operators aren’t too happy about the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s proposal to bump the cost of river tours $5-$10 per person per trip, and some are alleging river managers have made poor use of existing funds while allowing key facilities in Hells Canyon to languish.

Written comments offer glimpse of public opinion on plan

The Idaho County Commission’s first meeting on the new natural resource plan back in January 2016 launched a public process during which the county received written comments from 15 locals. The Free Press reviewed all the comments as well as the Idaho County Natural Resource Plan (ICNRP) initial and final drafts and found some comments are reflected more strongly in the final draft than others. The commission is preparing to adopt the ICNRP next Tuesday, July 26.

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Wallace gets full ride from Rocky Mountain

Next level athletes

Grant Wallace transferred to Clearwater Valley High School last fall and his offensive output greatly boosted the Rams’ chances every night in the ultracompetitive Whitepine League.

County in final stages of adopting resource plan

The idea that climate changes can be predicted well enough to inform government action is part of the new policy the Idaho County Commission is set to adopt at next Tuesday, July 26.

County resource plan hearing set July 26

Idaho County Commissioners had anticipated the final draft of the county’s natural resource plan would be available this week for public inspection online through the county website, The document is delayed until next week, so the commission has delayed its next hearing on the plan until 11 a.m. July 26.

Allegations stack up against two out-of-state bear hunters

Misdemeanor charges – 36 counts dating from 2012 to last month – were filed against a father and son who had allegedly hunted under bad paperwork for years – essentially, for buying and using the wrong licenses. Bruce Gabari Jr. and Bruce Gabari Sr. were named in the stack of case files – 29 in total – which stands several inches tall on a shelf at the Idaho County Courthouse.

Dredgers to fight S.F. Clearwater River mining regulations

Local miners to appeal new paperwork requirements

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are going forward with a plan to regulate suction dredging on the South Fork Clearwater River, in a move that will reopen the riverbed to as many as 15 small scale mining operations per year. Prior to 2012, small-scale suction dredging in the river had faced only state-level regulation from the Idaho Department of Water Resources, which had required only a letter permit.

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Strong turnout follows record entries

Border Days Rodeo

Attendance nearly matched record entries for the 105th edition of the Grangeville Border Days Rodeo, as crowds last Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights appeared to fill the grandstands as full as they’ve been since the centennial.

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‘Tradition’ for Border Days participants

Four-day event a family time

With a day earlier start to the rodeo, the annual Grangeville Border Days celebration gave participants more time to celebrate the July 4 holiday. Rodeo events ran July 1-3 with main festivities going July 2-4.

DEQ pushes solid waste conformity

A small change in Idaho Department of Environmental Quality policy will make a big change in how solid waste service providers and local governments across the region handle certain kinds of trash. While facilities such as Walco of Grangeville, Latah Sanitation of Moscow and Simmons Sanitation of Kamiah are abiding by local policy, DEQ is telling them – and the counties that rely on their services – to send certain kinds of waste out of the area.

Fire prevention is elementary


Everyone who believes in personal, individual responsibility ought to know what they can do to prevent forest fire, and everyone ought to expect their neighbors to know, too. Fire safety basics should be common sense – and, in our region, they are – but not everyone acts like it.

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Arnzen sets Mt. Misery women’s ultra record

Jenny Arnzen practices what she preached to those who turned out for to run cross-country with the Prairie High School team she helped organize in 2015.

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Urbahn marks 40 years with July 4th fireworks display

Border Days: ‘Rocket’s Red Glare’

When John Urbahn started pitching in to help with the Border Days fireworks show, he helped his dad, Bob Urbahn, set up and launch a much smaller booming, glittering display than will be seen at the GHS football field this Independence Day. It has been four decades of joy for John Urbahn, who is about to mark his 40th year launching the July 4 fireworks with the Grangeville Volunteer Fire Department.

Salvage work started to recover logs from 2015 fire season

After the huge fire season last year, the federal forests started planning salvage work that may yet recover lots of logs from burned areas. Plans for three of the projects the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests started in 2015 are now in writing. The three drafts went up for public review and comment on May 7, and the combined forests have made some changes.

Funderburg case dismissed against ICSO

Three years after a sex scandal struck the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, United States District Judge Edward Lodge on June 10 dismissed a federal civil case against Sheriff Doug Giddings, Undersheriff Jim Gorges and Idaho County.

NEPA projects taking place on districts

Among the “small NEPA” projects the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests announced in a May 27 letter are several taking place on local ranger districts. On the Red River Ranger District are projects calling for electrical lines are to be buried along Road 222D near Dixie and test drilling for gold in the Siegel Creek drainage. On the Salmon River Ranger District are projects calling for culvert replacement in Peasley Creek and placer mining exploration in the French Creek drainage. On the Lochsa-Powell Ranger District is a project calling for tree planting in the area burned by last summer’s Woodrat Fire.