Landing a land transaction

 

A Wyoming congressional representative is trying to resurrect a federal land sale act to reduce the budget deficit and help the National Park Service end a long quest to capture a Grand Teton inholding.

The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (pronounced "flit-fah") was enacted in July 2000 to allow federal agencies to sell off disposable lands identified prior to the bill and stash most of the profits for land purchases to preserve important cultural, wildlife or protected sites. (High Country News writer Zachary Smith wrote about the Bureau of Land Management's interest in upping land transactions under the Act in 2004.)

The Act expired in 2010, but Congress resurrected it last July for an additional year through an emergency appropriations bill. It died a second time this summer.

Flit-fah is now flitting its way back into Congress. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., introduced a bill Nov. 4 to bring the act back. Lummis wants it to help close a lagging land sale from the State of Wyoming to the Department of Interior. The sale includes some 1,400 acres worth $107 million in Grand Teton National Park.  Money from land sales could be used toward the cost of that inholding.

“We have 33,000 federal buildings in this country that are not being used. We have tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands -- of acres, federal land, BLM land that is on their disposal list,” Lummis said.

Negotiations between the Interior Department and the state over the Grand Teton property have limped on for years. The State of Wyoming is eager to sell—it only reaps $2,000-3,000 per year off the land from cattle grazing. Last year, former Gov. Dave Freudenthal gave the National Park Service an ultimatum meant to push the deal through, threatening to put the land up for sale if the federal government did not negotiate a trade that would give the state mineral rights, other land, or education money (some of the inholding lands are state school trust lands intended to generate funds for public education).  The two parties finally agreed that the Department of Interior would buy the parcels in a series of four purchases starting January 5, 2012.

Lummis says the act is a good alternative to Congress-dependent initiatives like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the proposed method of payment for the Grand Teton transaction. The fund received a little more than $301 million for the 2011 fiscal year -- a 33 percent cut from 2010 funding levels.

"In this financial environment, we have to expedite the conversion of surplus federal property to cash because we can't appropriate it from taxpayer dollars. We're broke," Lummis said. The bill would reauthorize the land transaction act until 2018 and take another look at an inventory of properties eligible for sale (subscription only).

The act seems to work— since 2000, the Bureau of Land Management has sold off 27,000 acres (mostly from Nevada bureau land transactions), generating a profit that paid for $94 million in land acquisitions for the BLM, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service.

And Lummis' plan shows promise. Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced a similar bill that was later put on the Senate calendar. Lummis' bill has also garnered support from the Sierra Club, The Conservation Fund and Wyoming Outdoor Council among others. It was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.  Not surprisingly, although Lummis claims bipartisan support for her bill, "some in Congress, particularly Republicans, have shown a hesitance to appropriate scarce federal dollars to buy new lands," according to Environment and Energy Daily.

Kimberly Hirai is an intern at High Country News.

Image of Antelope Flats in Grand Teton courtesy Flickr user Rishi Menon.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Communications Associate Director Location: Flexible within the Western U.S., Durango, CO preferred Position reports to: Senior Communications Director The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)...
  • HISTORIC HOTEL & CAFE
    For Sale, 600k, Centennial Wyoming, 6 suites plus 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. www.themountainviewhotel.com Make this your home or buy a turn key hotel [email protected]
  • MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Major Gifts Officer to join our...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    Basic Summary: The Vice President for Landscape Conservation is based in the Washington, D.C., headquarters and oversees Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing...
  • BRISTOL BAY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Seeking a program director responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the Alaska Chapter's priority strategy for conservation in the Bristol Bay region of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The National Bighorn Sheep Center is looking for an Executive Director to take us forward into the new decade with continued strong leadership and vision:...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, based in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a new Executive Director with a passion for rural communities, water, and working lands....
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Type: Permanent, fulltime Reports to: Executive Director Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state and out-of-state required Compensation (beginning): $44,000 to 46,500/yr., DOE plus excellent benefits...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.