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Pioneer Press

Fort Jones, CA

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Page A1, Column 1


Federal Land Sale Concerns


• Loss of grazing allotments feared by county cattlemen


By Frank Schall Pioneer Press Yreka Correspondent, Fort Jones, California


YREKA, Calif. - The possible sale of over 30,000 acres of National Forest Service land in Siskiyou County  was a topic of concern at the March 14, meeting of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors.

Board Chair Marcia Armstrong said she became concerned when she learned that about half of the land proposed for sale in the county had current grazing allotments, and noted that retention of the allotments has not been addressed by the Federal government.

The Bush Administration has proposed the sale of over 300,000 acres of National Forest land to help fund the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-determination Act (SRS).

Armstrong said she felt that grazers should be given first right of refusal to purchase land they presently use. The current proposal would give local and state government as well as land conservation trusts the first rights to purchase the land. “It would be hell to sell the land to conservatories.” she said.

J.T. Martin, President of the Siskiyou County Cattlemen’s Association, told the supervisors that his organization was not in favor of the proposed land sale.

“It would be a tremendous hardship on the cattlemen if we should lose our grazing allotments,” said Martin. He noted that the cattle industry generates over $32 million to the economy of the county each year.

“A lot of these allotments were established before there even was a Klamath National Forest,” said Martin.

“Any actions from this proposal that reduce grazing in the mountains will impact private lands, and the economic base of the county,” said Dan Drake, Siskiyou County Farm Advisor.

Drake stated that the mountain grazing augments livestock feed supply, and any cutback of grazing on federal land would impact private land.

  One of the ramifications, Drake noted, is that producers will become more intensive on their private lands, meaning more use of ground water and increased use of fertilizer and more intensive management.

“We already know that we have water shortages and ground water problems” said Drake. “It will also lead to increased cost of production, reduced profits and a reduced economic base.”

During a press briefing with Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey in Washington D.C. March 16, the Pioneer Press asked Rey about grazing and mineral rights on lands proposed for sale.

Rey’s response was that permit holders could buy the land they are now using, and that most of the details concerning the land sales would be determined by legislation yet to be formulated by Congress.

Rey said that the land would be sold by auction, and would be a one-time sale. He said that over 1,000 public comments have already been received, and that the deadline for public comment, March 30, may be extended.

Although local Congressman Wally Herger supports the sale,  he recently stated that the plan will “probably” be defeated because there is so much opposition.

Herger called the plan “a good solution to the problem. The challenge we face is figuring out how to pay for this important program while recognizing the very tight wartime budget environment and still living within our means.”

Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon vowed to do everything he could to stop the plan. “I just don’t think we can play Russian roulette with these local communities.

“The administration found billions to fund subsidies for energy company boondoggles, so I have trouble believing they couldn’t find the money in this budget environment to maintain support for rural Oregon counties.”

Two Republican lawmakers from Montana, Senator Conrad Burns, and Congressman Denny Rehberg, according to a story in the Chico Enterprise Record, voiced strong opposition to the plan.

“We don’t think it’s wise to sell public lands to fund a program that deserves full funding on its own,” they wrote in the Billings Gazette.






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