Reinstatement Of Critical Western Lands Program Will Benefit Local Economies, Ranchers, Sportsmen And Outdoor Enthusiasts

May 17, 2012

Rock climber at City of Rocks

Rock climbing in Idaho. Howie-Garber-Wanderlust

Hearing on HR 3365/Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization of 2011 before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands

Arlington, Va. — The Conservation Fund praised the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands for a hearing today on the reinstatement of important bipartisan legislation, the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), HR 3365. Over 100 groups applaud Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis and support reinstating the FLTFA program, calling it a balanced approach for selling land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a needed boost for conservation funding and an important economic tool for the West.

Through FLTFA’s deficit neutral “land for land” program, the private sector, municipalities and others may buy lands BLM has identified for sale. Many ranchers and farmers have purchased adjacent BLM lands often allowing them to expand their operations. BLM has also sold lands to timber interests, real estate companies, a community college, landfills, a cemetery and others. These purchases help support economic development, consolidate land ownership, create jobs and increase revenues to counties by putting land on the tax rolls.

“FLTFA reauthorization will provide another important tool to help working family ranches and farms through its balanced, ‘land for land,’ approach,” said Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President, Wyoming Stock Growers Association. “We appreciate Representative Lummis’ leadership in introducing this bill that will benefit rural communities and ranchers.”

“FLTFA provided a solution for my ranch,” said Gary Marshall of Broken Circle Company in Oregon. “The BLM land I bought was completely encircled by private property. I know others that would like to buy BLM land within and adjacent to their properties. FLTFA would help both BLM and ranchers accomplish our land goals.

The BLM sales generate funding for the “FLTFA Account” that Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture may use to acquire critical inholdings from willing sellers within national recreational areas, national forests, national trails and other areas. These conservation tracts provide recreational access for hunting, fishing, hiking, boating and other activities, as well as preserve the historic, scenic and cultural resources of the properties. The purchases often enhance the tourism and recreation economies of local communities through retail sales, hotels, restaurants, gas stations and more. By providing landowners with additional opportunities to sell their lands, FLTFA can help landowners achieve their economic goals.

“In a time of increased budget pressures, FLTFA balances conservation and economics and demonstrates a creative way to generate funds to acquire high priority land for conservation, outdoor recreation and historic preservation without impacting the budget deficit,” said The Conservation Fund’s president, Larry Selzer. “FLTFA complements the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other public and private funding that help to protect some of America’s favorite places.”

“The program has protected historically significant lands like Zane Grey’s fishing camp on the Rogue Wild and Scenic River in Oregon and staved off development within iconic places like Zion National Park,” said Brent Handley, Western Division Transaction Director for The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation organization that has partnered with federal agencies on FLTFA projects. “FLTFA also helps consolidate inholdings to allow for better management of public lands. It’s a critically important and common-sense conservation tool.”

“We applaud Representative Lummis’ work to reauthorize FLTFA for the benefit of the sportsmen’s community,” said Blake Henning, vice president of conservation for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “Reinstating FLTFA would bring back an incredible program that will provide access to hunting and will conserve, restore and enhance elk and other wildlife habitat, without impacting the federal budget.”

In the Senate, Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman introduced a similar bill, S. 714, which has seven western cosponsors and has been favorably reported out of Committee.

Before FLTFA’s authority expired last July, the BLM completed hundreds of federal land sales, generating over $115 million and funding 39 projects. FLTFA accomplishments include:

  • creating over one mile of riverfront, fly-fishing access at the famed Gray Reef stretch of the North Platte River, a Blue Ribbon/Class I trout fishery that supports the highest pounds of trout per mile of any stream in Wyoming;
  • securing recreational access at a popular hiking area in the heart of Hells Canyon Wilderness in Arizona;
  • protecting crucial winter range for big game and public access for scenic hiking along steep cliffs, rocky slopes, and mesa tops at Elk Springs ACEC in New Mexico;
  • preserving the artifact-rich cultural sites of the Ancestral Puebloans at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado;
  • conserving key riverfront lands along the canyon stretch of the South Fork Snake River, a popular angling and boating area that supports 341 related jobs in Idaho;
  • safeguarding pristine Coho salmon habitat and productive spawning reach for Chinook salmon within a Wild and Scenic River designation along the South Fork of the Trinity River at the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California; and
  • acquiring several properties in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada’s first National Conservation Area that provides 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas and nature observing to more than one million visitors a year.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.