Government seeks to sell WRNF land | PostIndependent.com
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Government seeks to sell WRNF land

The Bush administration is proposing to sell 1,240 acres of the White River National Forest as part of a budget proposal that would help fund rural schools and roads. Should President Bush’s proposal be approved by Congress, the WRNF’s parcels would be part of a 200,000-acre sell-off affecting the entire national forest system nationwide. The administration wants to sell the land to generate $800 million to make up for decreasing national forest timber revenues that have been used to fund rural schools and roads in counties where national forests are located. The sale would occur under a re-authorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.The sale would affect 21,572 acres of national forest land in Colorado, including nine parcels spread throughout WRNF. Roosevelt National Forest proposes to sell more than 6,000 acres, while only Routt National Forest will remain unaffected by the potential sale. Each forest was mandated to choose land that was either isolated or inefficient to manage, according to a Forest Service press release. To determine which land WRNF would sell, forest officials looked at a map and picked out small isolated parcels that are detached from the main body of land the Forest Service owns, said WRNF public information officer Kristi Ponozzo.”Isolated parcels are hard for us to manage because they’re surrounded by private land,” she said. WRNF parcels potentially on the auction block include: 200 acres near Sunlight Mountain Resort, just south of the Four Mile Gauging Station. 120 acres west of Redstone on Lake Ridge near Dexter Park. 120 acres on Doghead Mountain southeast of Parachute. 200 acres in two parcels near Bloodsworth Gulch and Moog Gulch east of Colorado Highway 13 south of Meeker. 320 acres in two parcels south of Edwards. 200 acres in two parcels west of Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County. 80 acres adjacent to Colorado Highway 9 north of Silverthorne. Ponozzo said that the WRNF officials’ proposal for the land sale is just that – a proposal. “Things could change,” she said. Bush’s proposal incensed U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, because the parcels are being proposed for sale without community involvement and because he disagrees with how Bush has decided to fund rural schools. “I have grave concerns about the sale of public lands without the consent and involvement of the community,” Salazar said Friday through spokeswoman Nayyera Haq. “The budget this administration sent to Congress last week has misplaced priorities. Rural schools need money and our children’s education deserves to have direct funding. Adequate funds for rural communities is an ongoing problem that won’t be solved with a one-time fix.”Salazar signed a letter with other Western congressmen asking for full funding of the Secure Rural Schools act. Though Ponozzo said none of the parcels on the block are in inventoried roadless areas, which environmentalists statewide are fighting fiercely to save, Sloan Shoemaker of the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop said that one of the parcels on the block in Summit County is part of the Elliot Creek Roadless Area. His claim is based on a map developed by the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project, whose Geographic Information Systems director, Connor Bailey, deferred to Shoemaker for comments. Ponozzo said Friday it’s unclear if the parcel is in a roadless area. “I don’ t know,” she said. “We need to look at the maps a little bit closer. Now that we look at it, it does look like it is in a roadless area. We don’t know right now.”Shoemaker said the area is part of federal roadless areas for which the government promised management decisions would be left up to the states. “Yet, here they are conveniently ignoring that policy and disposing of the parcel in the midst of the state roadless taskforce process, eliminating the opportunity for the state to have a say,” he said. A meeting regarding the fate of roadless areas in the WRNF is scheduled for June 21 in Glenwood Springs. Shoemaker called the potential sale of federal lands an “insane fiscal policy.””It’s like ripping the paneling off the walls and burning the furniture to heat the house,” he said. “It demonstrates the shortsightedness of this administration’s policies regarding its responsibility to its citizens and management of public lands.”Shoemaker said a better way for the Bush administration to rid the Forest Service of isolated, difficult-to-manage forestland is to trade those parcels for other land outside the forest boundaries that features good wildlife habitat. And to make up for the loss in revenue that spurred the government to sell off forest land, Shoemaker said the Bush administration should stop subsidizing the oil and gas industry, one of the richest industries in the world. Once the proposed sale is published in the Federal Register later this month, the public will have 30 days to comment on the proposal, Ponozzo said. Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520bmagill@postindependent.com


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