Move over, Catron County

  Not to be outdone by other angry rural counties in the West, Lake County, Ore., wants to buy the 1 million acres of Forest Service land within its boundaries. Officials of the county in south-central Oregon say they're frustrated by a federal bureaucracy that has slowed timber harvesting and hurt the local economy. To make the purchase, county commissioners pledged to pay the government $5 million a year for more than 100 years. The purchase price would come from new timber sales.

"I don't think we're very supportive," said Forest Service spokesman Chris Holmes, in The Oregonian. Holmes doubts the county could replace the fire control, wildlife and recreational programs the agency has established. The local committee that formulated the takeover pitched it in a letter to Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas; he responded by writing commissioners that their proposal was currently illegal. However, Thomas said he was willing to work with local representatives to improve forest plans.

The county needs an act of Congress to authorize its purchase of public land. A supporter of such a bill is an Oregon congressman, Wes Cooley, R, who says "the federal government is a lousy neighbor."

*Shea Andersen

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