Severed at the hip

  Western lore often portrays rural communities adjacent to public lands as joined at the hip with the federal government. Many people assume that if federal land managers reduce logging or curtail mining on public land, the tax base of the neighboring communities will plummet. Not true, says a new report by the Wilderness Society. After studying 100 counties within the Interior Columbia River Basin, which contains 75 million acres of federal land, the report concludes that the "conflict between generating county revenue and protecting the environment is more perception than reality." In 86 of the 100 counties, federal payments account for 5 percent or less of county revenues. The study - part of an ongoing social and economic analysis of the basin - also shows that congressional programs to repair damaged ecosystems can successfully augment declining commodity revenues. In much of the West, concludes the report, the local tax base is now diversified and no longer dependent solely on resource extraction.

For a copy of the 53-page, Federal Lands Payment Programs in the Columbia River Basin, send $5 to the Wilderness Society, Northern Rockies Regional Office, 105 W. Main St., Suite E, Bozeman, MT 59715 (406/586-1600 or fax 406/586-4700).

*John Rosapepe

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