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Oregon County land part of proposed national forest sale

Friday, March 24, 2006

OREGON COUNTY -- The National Forest Service is accepting public comments on the proposed sale of Mark Twain National Forest land through March 30.

The plan, announced last month as part of President Bush's fiscal 2007 budget proposals, would require the sale of about 21,500 acres of National Forest Service land in Missouri if approved by Congress.

Some money from the sale of the land would be earmarked for rural schools, but lawmakers, including Eighth District Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, have questioned whether Missouri, where up to one-third of the nationwide sales are proposed, would receive a fair share of those funds. The decision to sell the land can be approved, modified or refused by Congress.

The administrations's proposal would grant the Forest Service authority to sell small tracts of forest land they say are isolated or inefficient to manage due to their location or other characteristics.

Tim Bond from the 11 Point District Ranger Office said 326 acres in Oregon County, or 25 parcels, are included in the lands proposed for sale. Oregon County has more Forest Service land than any other county in the state, a total of 105,632 acres.

Emerson said last week she would not support the proposal in its present form. "Rural education is an extemely important priority for me, but so is the health of our rural schools right here in Missouri," she said.

"If we are selling federal lands in our state for this program, we must be sure the formula for distributing these funds is fair. Right now, we are looking at a proposal to trade a dollar of forest service land for a dime of education funding. Under the plan's present form, under the present formula, I can't support the trade-off," she said.

"This is not a decision which will be made at the state level. However, I have contacted our U.S. senators and Congresswoman Emerson and asked them to look at the issue very closely. I want to make sure National Forest money for our schools is protected," said state Rep. Mike Dethrow.

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