Forest Service Purchasing
The U.S. Forest Service is purchasing properties for the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, one of 27 exceptional land acquisition projects in 15 states that will help safeguard clean water, provide recreational access, preserve wildlife habitat, enhance scenic vistas and protect historic and wilderness areas, according to USDA.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced that the Forest Service will dedicate $40.6 million for the land buys.
Projects funded are in Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. Projects range from protecting nationally significant lands from threat of residential development in North Carolina, to aiding purchase of the largest single parcel of privately held land with the Kootznoowoo Wilderness on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
The Forest Service will spend $1,417,500 to expand the HCNRA in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. According to an AP news story, the transaction involves 1,481 acres formerly marketed as vacation home sites along the Imnaha River, AP reported.
The AP report also noted that the transaction completes a purchase of 6,695 acres from the Nature Conservancy, which had purchased the properties in 2008 from Gazelle Land and Timber Co.
The properties will serve as public gateways to thousands of acres of public lands and are home to 14 key fish and wildlife species, including Oregon's largest Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd. The land also contains habitat for rare plants and at-risk bird species including the yellow breasted chat, mountain quail, Lewis' woodpecker and willow flycatcher, a USDA press release stated.
The money is made available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, created by Congress in 1964 to provide funding to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands. The fund receives the majority of its money through royalty payments from offshore oil and gas revenues to mitigate the environmental impacts of those activities. Those funds also are augmented by additional money or in-kind services of a variety of partnerships.
Lands are purchased from willing sellers at fair-market value or through partial or outright donations of property. Landowners may also sell or donate easements on their property that restrict commercial development while keeping the land in private ownership.
The projects were selected through a competitive process based on ability to safeguard watersheds, provide recreational access, restore healthy forests, mitigate climate change, defend communities from wildfire, create management efficiency, and reconnect fragmented landscapes and ecosystems.
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