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Act spurs controversy beyond New Hampshire.

An innovative strategy to acquire and protect a significant parcel of forest land adjacent to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire has sparked a controversy that echoes all the way to Capitol Hill. Forged by the State of New Hampshire, the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the strategy would enable the state to acquire about 40,000 acres of the Nash Stream tract.

Acquisition would come with the assistance of loans from the two private organizations, and an investment of approximately $4 million by the Forest Service for a conservation easement on the tract.

The "New Hampshire Forest Management Initiatives Act of 1988," passed in conjunction with the appropriation bill last session, earmarked $5.25 million for the acquisition of private forest lands in and adjacent to the White Mountain National Forest.

These lands, formerly owned by Diamond International Corporation, were the subject of considerable concern in New England. Now controversy surrounding the Act promises to continue that debate.

The Forest Service has acquired approximately 4,500 acres of inholdings in the White Mountain National Forest for about $1 million, and is now in the process of purchasing from New Hampshire a conservation easement on the Nash Stream tract for the remaining $4 million.

Through the conservation easement, the Forest Service will acquire certain interests in the land, including the development rights.

On November 22, 1988, Representatives Bruce F. Vento (MN) and Harold L. Volkmer (MO) wrote in a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Richard E. Lyng, "Those of us who supported this appropriation intended that the Forest Service much of the...45,000-acre Nash Stream tract as possible."

They argued that the conservation easement on state land was a poor expenditure of federal dollars, since "prevention of development and conservation of resources were the reasons the State bought the land in the first place."

Peter C. Myers, acting for Secretary Lyng, responded in a December 13, 1988, letter that "neither the Act nor its limited legislative history indicates a preference for spending the appropriated sums entirely on fee acquisition of lands to be incorporated within new segments of the National Forest."

The final version of the act, which came through the House-Senate Conference Committee, "significantly modified the earlier Senate version," according to Myers," particularly with regard to the role of the Federal Government."

In this version, he noted, "the primary federal role is to facilitate and cooperate with the state and private entities in the acquisition of the Diamond lands," and the acquisition of partial interests in land is expressly provided for.

Several Congressional staff members told Resource Hotline that the controversy stems in parts from a breakdown in communications between the Senate and House during the appropriations bill was being finalized.

They also suggested that some members of Congress may bee uneasy because the strategy is new and untested, and the conservation easement is extraordinarily large.

The Forest Service and state of New Hampshire are now appraising the values of the rights that each will acquire in the property, and negotiating administrative and management issues.

When they come to terms, the Forest Service may have to receive approval from Congress before the transaction can be completed. This process is expected to take several months.
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Title Annotation:New Hampshire Forest Management Initiative Act of 1988
Author:Gray, Gerald J.
Publication:American Forests
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Previous Article:Saving a yankee forest.
Next Article:Report on our stressed-out forests.

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