National Parks vs Private Land - Park group asks Congress to buy "inholdings" for public good
 
(Note: At the http://forests.orgarchive/america/urgebuyl.htm website, someone decided to add this: "OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY BY EE: Large contiguous areas of intact forest ecosystems are required to maintain diversity and functionality.  National Parks in the United States, though defined more on "monumentalism" than on ecological worth, are nonetheless the United States' last best chance to save representative intact landscapes composed of native species and community diversity.  The following article highlights one obstacle to better biodiversity conservation in National Parks -- that of "inholdings" -- parcels of land within park boundaries that are privately owned.  Many of these lands may develop commercially.  There is potential for inappropriate and polluting land uses within and adjacent to U.S. National Parks.  Any habitat conversion there could fragment and diminish ecological systems.  The National Park Trust reports that for a relatively small amount of money, some $70 million, the connectedness and quality of interior areas of National Parks could be maintained and improved. g.b.")
 
August 25, 1999
 

By Miguel Llanos, MSNBC

 

Image: Mojave National Preserve


Mojave National Preserve includes dunes among its 1.6 million acres. The National Park Trust wants to see 86,000 acres of privately owned land within the preserve bought for the public good. 

A park preservation group on Wednesday claimed that some 200,000 acres of privately held land within the nation's park system are in "imminent" danger of being developed or resold. 

The National Park Trust listed 20 "high priority" sites covering 110,000 acres and urged Congress to come up with the estimated $70 million it would take to buy them for the public good. 

 "The danger that this land could be sold for development, bulldozing, clear cutting or for other destructive purposes constitutes the single greatest threat to the system of national and state parks," Trust President Paul Pritchard said in a statement released with the report on the 83rd birthday of the National Park Service. 

The Trust claimed that even though purchases of private lands have increased in recent years, so too have the number of acres of private land in public parks. In the last decade, it said, private property within Americas parks -- known as "inholdings" -- rose by 1.6 million acres, a 35 percent increase. 

Some six million acres within the 84 million acres of the national park system are privately owned, and Pritchard claimed that "on any given day 200,000 acres are under an immediate threat."

 

Plea to  Congress 

Private citizens should demand action at all levels of government, Pritchard added, noting that Congress has been slow to approve purchases even though it has more than $5 billion available through a Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

The 1965 fund allows some $900 million a year to go towards acquisitions.
Still, Congress has been reluctant to come up with money for land purchases. The report said that in 1998 only $23 million was provided for national park land acquisition, a tenth of what the National Park Service had sought.
This summer the House and Senate approved about half of the $295 million the Interior Department had sought for its land legacy purchases, including funds earmarked to buy private land in and adjacent to federal parks. 

Response from Congress 

A staffer on the Republican-run House subcommittee for national parks took exception to the report on several fronts, noting first that the Clinton administration has asked for acquisition funds only in the last few years. 

As for the threat to parks, the source asked, "What's imminent? Who knows what that means." In most cases, he wagered, "nothing's going on" with the property. 

The source also noted that inholdings are often property that was there before a park was created or expanded and in those cases "it's not fair to turn around and point the finger at private property." 

But at the House subcommittee for Interior Department appropriations the reaction was different. In a statement, Chairman Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, said the Trust "properly calls attention to the inholdings issue" and noted that he has made acquisition of those properties a "top priority." 

Priorites big and small 

In its report, the Trust claimed the threat to parks from the development of inholdings is growing significantly because the value of these lands in many cases has skyrocketed. 

Logging, energy exploration, mining and subdivisions were cited as examples of what's planned for many of the inholdings. 

The National Park Service has also identified development of inholdings as a threat to the system. 

The Trust report cited 110,000 acres of privately owned property in and adjacent to 20 parks, valued at more than $70 million, as being at greatest risk of being developed or re-sold for commercial purposes. 

The Trust's "top targets" list (see end of story) ranges from 9 acres within the Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts to 86,426 acres in California's Mojave Desert. 

Nonprofit buybacks 

While pressuring Congress remains a major strategy, the Trust and other groups are also raising money to buy back land themselves for the public good. 

Through donations, the Trust recently bought 10,000 acres of tallgrass prairie in Kansas, and will own the land while the National Park Service operates it as a park. 

In another example, the nonprofit Wildlands Conservancy recently began negotiations to buy 430,000 acres parceled out checkerboard-fashion in and around Joshua Tree  National Park and the Mojave National Preserve, both in  California. 

But even here final approval will depend on $36 million coming from the federal government. So far, the Senate has agreed to come up with only $15 million and the House none at all.       

National Park Trust's Top 20 Targets

The Trust identified these areas as their top 20 "high priorities" and estimated their purchase prices. In all, they encompass 110,000 acres and $70 million would be needed to buy them for the National Parks System.  

* Everglades National Park (Fla.): 17,321 acres, $20 million 

* Gettysburg National Military Park (Penn.): 99 acres, $5.7 million 

* Saguaro National Park (Ariz.): 250 acres, $2.8 million 

* Mojave National Preserve (Calif.): 86,426 acres, $7.1 million 

* Apostle Island National Lakeshore (Wisc.): 54 acres, $250,000 

* Wrangell-St. Ellis National Park (Alaska): 1,000 acres, $1.7 million 

* Weir Farm National Historic Site (Conn.): 13 acres, $2.5 million 

* Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (Ohio) 243 acres, $2.5 million 

* Blue Ridge PArkway (N.C. and Virginia): 40 acres, $225,000 

* Anteltam National Battlefield (Maryland): 315 acres, $2 million 

* North Cascades Complex (Wash.): 225 acres, $1 million 

* Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah): 532 acres, $400,000 

* Olympic National Park (Wash.): 204 acres, $2.5 million 

* Stones River National Battlefield (Tenn.): 112 acres, $4.3 million 

* Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park (Maryland):: 722 acres, $800,000 

* Cape Cod National Seashore (Mass.): 9 acres, $2.8 million 

* Keweensaw National Historic Park (Mich.): 11 acres, $2.4 million 

* Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii): 1,950 acres, $3.5 million 

* Fredericksburg and Spotylvania National Military Park (Virg.): 557 acres, $6.3 million 

* Pecos National Historic Park (New Mexico): 375 acres, $1.8 million 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Copyright 1999 MSNBC 

http://www.msnbc.com/news/ENVIRONMENT_Front.asp         

 
 
"Interior Sec Gale A Norton has adopted strategy of pushing what she calls four C's: communication, consultation and cooperation, all in service of conservation; to Norton, four C's are basis of what she and President Bush call new environmentalism, which emphasizes cooperation at local level rather than federal edicts; whatever strategy means for environment, it has helped Norton avoid political trouble ... a grand new initiative called Water 2025..."
 

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res
=F50F14F93E5D0C7A8CDDAF0894DB404482

 

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Another related article   -----

 

National Park Trust targets private land inside Mojave Desert 

August 26, 1999

 By Christine Dorsey, Donrey Washington Bureau

 Las Vegas Review-Journal 

Las Vegas, Nevada 

http://www.lvrj.com 

To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@reviewjournal.com 

Washington, DC - A nonprofit trust whose mission is to purchase land to add to the National Park System is targeting more than 86,000 acres of private property inside the Mojave National Preserve.     

The National Park Trust announced Wednesday it will help the federal parks agency acquire more than 200,000 acres across the country of "in-holdings" -- private or publicly owned land within national parks, including the California desert land. The eastern boundary of the Mojave preserve is 60 miles west of Las Vegas.     

"It's up in the air right now," Paul Pritchard, president of the National Park Trust, said of the private tracts within the Mojave. Pritchard warned that development of the checkerboard of private in-holdings within the Mojave National Preserve would spoil the purpose for creating the preserve in 1994.     

The group released a report calling the proposed private development of 200,000 acres within 20 park units in the 84 million-acre National Park System a major threat to the sanctity of America's parks.     

"The danger that this land could be sold for development, bulldozing, clear-cutting or for other destructive purposes constitutes the single greatest threat to the nation's cherished system of national and state parks," Pritchard said. Presently, about 6 million acres of land within the parks is privately owned.     

The Wildlands Conservancy, a California group, already has worked out an agreement with Catellus Development Corp., a real estate firm that owns most of the Mojave private in-holdings. In exchange for $18.6 million from the conservancy and an additional $36 million in federal funds, the real estate firm would turn over most of the environmentally sensitive land. The rest of the property, valued at $16.4 million, would be donated by Catellus.      

But there is a potential glitch in obtaining the $36 million from the Clinton administration. Congress would have to approve a bill that would allow the National Park Service to spend that sum from the Land and Water Conservation fund, a pot of money collected from offshore oil leases.     

This summer the House and Senate approved about half of the $295 million the Department of Interior had sought for a variety of in-holdings purchases.     

The Senate has agreed to spend $15 million on the Mojave project, less than half of the amount needed. That's still more than the House version of the bill, which includes no funding for Mojave purchases. Negotiators will meet in September to iron out differences.     

If Congress does not allocate enough money this year to complete the deal with Catellus, trust officials said they will seek more next year.     

David Myers, executive director of the Wildlands Conservancy, said Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., played a role in blocking funding from the House version of the bill. Myers said Lewis used his role as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense to block the Mojave money until he gets funding to help nearby Fort Erwin Army Base with a proposed expansion.     

Lewis' spokesman James Specht said the lawmaker does not plan to block Mojave funding when the bill is considered by House and Senate negotiators.     

"His main concern is Fort Erwin," Specht said, noting Lewis will not sit on the conference panel that will consider Mojave funding.     

"We have to realize that the solution to this problem really is in the hands of Americans who want to see these lands protected," Pritchard said, referring to all the lands. He said the trust is hoping to spark public support, and in turn influence state and congressional lawmakers.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/1999/Aug-26-Thu-1999/news/11825636.html