AREA -- The National Forest Service announced last week that it has agreed to a request from Missouri lawmakers to extend the comment period on the proposed sale of land in the Mark Twain National Forest until May 1.
U.S. Sens. Jim Talent and Kit Bond with Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson made the request in a letter to the Forest Service March 9. The original comment period was due to end March 30.
The proposed land sale is part of President Bush's fiscal 2007 budget and would require the sale of approximately 21,500 acres of National Forest Service land in Missouri if approved by Congress.
Tim Bond from the 11 Point District Ranger Office said last month the sale includes 326 acres in 25 parcels of Forest Service land in Oregon County.
The Mark Twain National Forest is a series of land tracts throughout southern and central Missouri covering 29 counties, with Oregon County, encompassing the most National Forest Service land with 105,632 acres.
The 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.
"I'm pleased they have extended the comment period for Missourians, but I've reached the conclusion that this proposal is beyond resuscitation," Talent said in a news release last week.
"My objective was to determine how serious the Forest Service was about this proposal, and their inability to respond quickly and appropriately has undermined this effort. I will not support a proposal in which Missouri sells more and gets less compared to other states. They need to go back to the drawing board and develop a new plan," he said.
Bond, in a news release, echoed Talent's statements. "While I am pleased the Forest Service extended the comment period, I am disappointed that Missourians were not given more time to express their concerns on this ambiguous and complex proposal," said Bond.
"It is obvious that, not only is this inequitable proposal a bad deal for Missouri, it is also poorly planned. I hope the administration can find another solution that does not harm Missouri's environment or educational interests," he said.
The Bush administration proposed the land sale to provide funding for America's rural schools. Talent, Bond and Emerson called the formula for the project grossly inequitable.
They said the over 21,000 acres of Forest Service land for sale would generate only $2.64 million in revenue for rural schools in the state. The officials say many western states, in contrast, are scheduled to sell far fewer acres while receiving substantial returns.
They said Oregon is slated to sell 10,581 acres of Forest Service land and receive $260 million for its rural schools. That is far greater than the $2.64 million Missouri is expected to receive for selling almost twice as much land.