A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
S. 270 La Pine Land Conveyance Act
May 17, 2012
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on S. 270, the La Pine Land Conveyance Act. The bill proposes to convey to the city of La Pine and Deschutes County, Oregon, three parcels (consisting of 150 acres, 750 acres, and 10 acres). The BLM does not object to the conveyances in S. 270. We note that these conveyances are consistent with our existing authority under the Recreation and Public Purposes (R&PP) Act, so they could be accomplished administratively. We appreciate the improvements made to this legislation since the hearing in the Senate one year ago on S. 270, and included in the bill passed by the Senate on October 18, 2011.
La Pine is a rural community located in southern Deschutes County, Oregon. The BLM and the City of La Pine have a long history of working together and have completed several Recreation and Public Purposes (R&PP) Act conveyances, including the sites of the La Pine library and fire station. Since La Pine is surrounded by BLM-administered lands, community leaders have held ongoing discussions with the BLM concerning the city's need for additional land to serve other public purposes.
The R&PP Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to lease or convey public lands for recreational and public purposes, such as campgrounds, municipal buildings, hospitals, and other facilities benefitting the public. The La Pine Special Sewer District submitted an R&PP application to BLM's Prineville District Office in 2007, and an amended application in January 2009, for 750 acres of BLM-administered lands on the eastern edge of the La Pine city limits. The District has informed BLM that its intention is to use the lands to expand their current wastewater treatment facilities. The parcel is largely vacant, but does contain rights-of-way for a natural gas pipeline, transmission line, and roads. This parcel of land is shown as “Parcel B” on the map prepared at the request of Senator Wyden, dated December 11, 2009. “Parcel C” on the map is currently leased under R&PP through 2020 and consists of a library, parking lot and picnic area.
Additionally, the City of La Pine has expressed an interest in developing a public rodeo grounds and equestrian center on a 150-acre parcel of BLM-administered lands adjacent to the southwest border of the city. This parcel is also largely vacant, but contains rights-of-way for a road and transmission lines. It also provides important habitat and a travel corridor for elk. This parcel of land is shown as “Parcel A” on the map prepared at the request of Senator Wyden, dated December 11, 2009.
S. 270 proposes to convey, at no cost, to the city of La Pine and Deschutes County, Oregon, all right, title and interest of the United States to the three parcels (consisting of 150 acres, 750 acres, and 10 acres), detailed on the map prepared at the request of Senator Wyden, dated December 11, 2009. These conveyances would be subject to valid existing rights and are intended to address the city's and county's stated need for additional land to accommodate the expansion of its wastewater treatment facilities and provide land for a public library, rodeo grounds and equestrian center.
The bill requires that the three parcels of land be used only for purposes consistent with the R&PP Act and includes a reversionary clause to enforce that requirement. Finally, the bill requires the County to pay all administrative costs associated with the transfer.
As a matter of policy, the BLM supports working with local governments to resolve land tenure issues that advance worthwhile public policy objectives. In general, the BLM supports the proposed conveyances, as they are consistent with the existing R&PP authority. We would like to work with the bill's sponsor to further address concerns related to Parcel A, which serves as an important travel corridor and shelter area for elk along the Little Deschutes River, either through additional boundary modifications or through identification of alternative sites. We appreciate Senator Wyden's amendment to the bill to address the Department of Justice's
recommendationthat it be revised to make absolutely clear that the city or county would have to agree to the proposed conveyance, which is what we understand Congress intends.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the La Pine Land Conveyance Act.