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Land Exchange

Winter 2003
Update Western Land Exchange Project
Seattle, Washington
Research, Advocacy, & Outreach for Land Exchange Policy Reform Vol. 7, No. 2

Meet the people who are safeguarding your public land


Establishing the Western Land Exchange Project in 1997 motorcycle road-racer and musician for nearly 20
was the ultimate outcome of one person’s outrage over one years. He came to the Verde Valley in 1994, went to
bad land deal—the Huckleberry Land Exchange in Wash- work for the Post Office, and soon became active in
ington State between Weyerhaeuser and the Forest Service. community concerns. Tony hadn’t conceived of any
It didn’t take long to discover that the wheeling, dealing, potential danger to the national forest lands near
and disposal of public land was happening all across the his home, but says the emergence of the Yavapai
country—at a furious pace, in a reckless fashion, and with exchange “increased my awareness a thousand-fold.”
virtually no one watching. Someone had to take this on…. With money scraped together among local activists,
And that’s what we hear almost every day from ad-hoc activ- Tony has twice traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby
ists across the West and beyond— people who never suspected and testify against the Yavapai bill, which has so far
that they would become intimate with mind-numbing regula- failed to pass the Senate but is likely to come back in
tions, that they had an activist cell in their bodies, or that January 2004. In the face of daunting odds, Tony and
their public lands might be selected as a sacrifice zone. friends remain determined to save the Verde Valley
One of the best parts of our work is the daily contact we have lands. “These are public lands that belong to all citi-
with activists from all over the country who are working with zens of the United States—and to their wildlife inhab-
us for the same cause. We thought you should meet some of itants,” he says. For more information on the Yavapai
them. —JB deal, see www.yrlx.com.

S P
ince 1999, Tony Gioia of Camp eggy Titus never planned to be
Verde, Arizona has led commu- a public lands activist, but the
nity opposition to the Yavapai Bureau of Land Management
Ranch Land Exchange, a legis- (BLM) forced her hand. The
lated deal currently sponsored by New York-born Titus moved to
Rep. Renzi and Sen. McCain. In Phoenix, Arizona in 1972 to go to
addition to trading public lands school, and eventually worked as
elsewhere, the deal would relin- a travel agent. In 1997, Peggy and
quish more than 3,000 acres of her husband bought land near
Prescott National Forest land in the Verde Valley to Mayer, Arizona and built their own off-the-grid, water-
developer Fred Ruskin, who would hand over some conserving (and non-air-conditioned!) home. In
of his lands in the “checkerboards” of the Prescott. the spring of 2002, Peggy learned that the BLM was
Tony has worked unrelentingly as a member of the planning to trade to a developer some 17,000 acres
town council, various water-related advisory boards, in her area, including a 9,000-acre parcel near her
and local ad-hoc groups to spread the word about the home. Peggy and friends climbed the steep learning
danger Ruskin’s development would pose to already- curve of laws and regulations governing land trades
imperiled water supplies in the Valley’s communities. (and insists we mention how helpful they found our
Originally from New York, Tony was a professional Citizens’ Guide to Federal Land Exchanges, which she


says “helped us know the process and hold experience of wilderness is an experience
them to it.”) In the face of massive public of freedom.” “The hard part,” Carolyn says,
opposition from Peggy and hundreds of her “has been realizing that without constant
neighbors, the BLM withdrew the exchange struggle on our part, the agencies won’t do
proposal. Now, however, the agency is draw- their jobs,” but Stehekin has always inspired
ing up a new management plan for the area an active community, and even the infuriat-
and is proposing to keep the 17,000 acres ing complexities of bad land trades won’t
on the list for future disposal. Peggy’s once- be enough to grind this one down.

F
quiet life is now full of meetings, organizing
or more than a
efforts, and letter-writing. After discovering
decade, Donna
what she calls the Pandora’s Box of public
Charpied has been
land policy, Peggy joined her local BLM
fighting to protect our
Resource Advisory Council, where she is
public lands from a pro-
determined “not to just play the game but
posed garbage dump
to work for the protection of public lands.”
near her home outside

C
arolyn McConnell’s Joshua Tree National
family moved a lot Park. Donna and her
as she was grow- husband Larry own and
ing up, but one fixed work an organic jojoba farm near Eagle
place in her existence Mountain, California, and worry that the
was and is Stehekin, proposed dump will contaminate and
the tiny, isolated com- deplete the region’s groundwater, pollute
munity in Washington its air, and harm species endemic to the
State’s North Cascades Mojave Desert ecosystem. “These are public
National Park (NCNP) lands,” says Donna, “and while Joshua Tree
where her grandparents bought land after is geographically part of Larry’s and my
World War II. Now a Seattle resident, Caro- community, philosophically it is part of
lyn is senior editor at YES! Magazine, an everyone’s community.” Donna’s efforts
ad-free national quarterly that focuses on began in 1992, after the Kaiser Corpora-
positive change. Carolyn remains strongly tion received a permit from Riverside
connected to the Stehekin community, County, California, to build what was to be
including as a member of the North Cas- the nation’s largest garbage dump. Donna
cades Conservation Council, which her was so alarmed that she bought a how-to
grandparents helped found. Several years book on litigation, filed a lawsuit under
ago, Carolyn helped form the group Ste- the California Environmental Quality Act
hekin Alert to fight a developer’s plan to against the county, and successfully argued
build cabin-style condos on the cliffs above the case in court. At the same time as the
upper Lake Chelan. In response to a huge CEQA litigation, others were challenging a
outcry in the community, the National Park decision by the BLM to do a land exchange
Service (NPS) proposed to exchange the with Kaiser to provide it with the majority
cliff land for publicly-owned spotted owl of the land for the dump. After Donna’s
habitat. Stehekin Alert, along with National victory in state court, the BLM withdrew
Parks Conservation Association and WLXP, its decision to proceed with the trade and
organized public opposition to the trade, decided to prepare a new EIS. Riverside
eventually forcing the NPS to drop the County re-approved the project in 1997,
exchange and purchase the developer’s and the Charpieds again challenged the
land. Now, Carolyn and her colleagues decision, this time with the help of lawyers
in NCCC are challenging the NPS over and the Sierra Club. Again, the trial court
another bad exchange in Stehekin. Carolyn found that Riverside County had violated
feels bound to Stehekin partly because “ the

Land Exchange Update 2 Winter 2003
CEQA, but the decision was reversed on
appeal. When the California Supreme
Court refused to hear the case, Donna and
Larry filed a suit in federal district court
against the BLM for its decision to proceed
with the Kaiser exchange. That suit is still
before the court and could be decided any
day. Donna and Larry’s work for the desert,
The Reading Room of our website,
for which they receive virtually no financial
support, is profoundly inspiring to us at
www.westlx.org,
WLXP. features project news, press
coverage, and access to our
F
or the last many
months, David Doty
has been challenging
a planned land trade in
newsletters and publications.
the Ouachita National
Forest in western Arkan-
sas. David found us
through our website,
read our two books,
and quickly learned Land Exchange Update
the alphabetical morass of environmental The Land Exchange Update is published by
statutes —NEPA, FLPMA and FOIA— so the Western Land Exchange Project, a non-
he could take on the Forest Service. Since profit charitable organization conducting
then, he has been a persistent thorn in the research, outreach, and advocacy for the
Forest Supervisor’s side, forcing the agency reform of federal land exchange policy.
to abide by the law. The proponent of the
land trade, a summer camp operator, was
Western Land Exchange Project
P.O. Box 95545
originally seeking more than 400 acres of
Seattle, WA 98145-2545
National Forest, including a portion of
phone 206.325.3503
a popular hiking trail and about a half-
fax 206.325.3515
mile of a tributary to the Ouachita River.
www.westlx.org
Because of the hard work of David and
others, the exchange has been scaled back
to about a third of its original size. But
Board of Directors
Rebecca Rundquist, President, Seattle, WA
David is not satisfied—the current proposal Dr. Charles Pezeshki, Pullman, WA
would still have an impact on the trail, may Marianne Dugan, Eugene, OR
harm the sensitive southern yellow lady’s Sandy Lonsdale, Bend, OR
slipper, and would violate the Forest Plan.
After a career in local government, David Staff
and his wife Martha retired in 1993 to a Janine Blaeloch, Director,
mountain ridge adjacent to the Ouachita blaeloch@westlx.org
forest outside Royal, Arkansas. The two
are avid hikers and campers and volun- Christopher Krupp, Staff Attorney,
teer their time to repair trails in the area. krupp@westlx.org
David is also a volunteer instructor for the Linda Campbell, Program Coordinator,
AARP and a charter member of the Lake campbell@westlx.org
Ouachita Citizens Focus Committee, which
advises the US Army Corps of Engineers on Newsletter Design/Production
its management of Lake Ouachita. Sheila Hoffman
www.NewslettersAndMore.net
Land Exchange Update 3 Winter 2003
Congress doles out the public domain
“There is no When we started our work in 1996, the West-
ern Land Exchange Project was focused
bers from outside that state will ultimately
oppose it.
hunger like on malfeasance and bad management in
the Forest Service and BLM land exchange
Citizens have little recourse to improve or

land hunger, programs. It was not until 1998—when the


Interstate-90 land trade here in our state
forestall land exchange legislation, since
the normal safeguards provided through
and no object changed from an agency action to a congres-
the agencies are almost always eliminated.
In an agency land trade, a project must go
for which men
sional deal—that we saw how infinitely worse
through the National Environmental Policy
land deals can be when they come out of the
Act (NEPA) process, which requires envi-
are more ready U.S. Congress. Over the years, we have dis-
covered that members of Congress annually
ronmental analysis, examination of alterna-
tives, and public involvement in the decision.
to use unfair exchange, give away, and authorize the sale of
public land—hundreds, sometimes thousands
Not so with the majority of congressional
trades—and other laws such as the Federal
and desperate of acres at a time—as freely as though they
themselves were its sole owners.
Land Management & Policy Act (FLPMA)

means than the As one example, in the 104th Congress (1996-


and Endangered Species Act may also be
waived to grease the skids. Even the appraisal

acquisition of 1997), an incredible 94 land transactions were


enacted. Fifty-nine deals involved military
standards, designed to ensure that taxpayers
aren’t bilked, are routinely bypassed.
land.” lands—e.g., conveyance of small parcels on
or near military bases to nearby jurisdictions
Unfortunately, the public is almost com-
pletely unaware of the cloakroom deals that
—Gifford Pinchot (another issue deserving of scrutiny). But the
1996 Omnibus Parks & Public Lands Bill also
relinquish public lands. Established envi-
The Fight for Conservation contained 21 land deals affecting non-military
ronmental groups in the affected area may
involve themselves if they have the knowledge
public lands totaling more than 80,000 acres.
and resources, but often it is the spontane-
By comparison, the Forest Service traded away
ous coalition of citizens that must carry the
68,000 acres that year in 85 transactions.
cause. The Western Land Exchange Project
The 1996 Omnibus exemplifies the secretive regularly monitors, submits testimony on,
nature of these deals: of the 21 bills, only 9 and publicizes these projects, but the sheer
of them cited an acreage figure, using only volume can be overwhelming.
a legal description or reference to a map.
As an antidote to frustration, WLXP is under-
The bills contain cryptic, arcane language
taking a major effort to educate the public,
whose meaning is not clear. Many of the bills
members of Congress, and the media on
exempted the trading parties from environ-
this issue. With the help of historian George
mental laws; one established a system for
Draffan, who co-authored our book Com-
appraising lands in southern Utah so as to
mons or Commodity? The Dilemma of Federal
give private land owners inflated land value in
Land Exchanges, we are currently compiling
trades with the government.
a history of congressional land deals, which
Congressional land deals are extremely diffi- will include both statistical data and in-depth
cult to challenge. Because they do not involve analysis of selected exchanges. We will exam-
the direct outlay of money, most are consid- ine the frequency with which these bills waive
ered “non-controversial,” and very few mem- environmental laws; who benefits; how many
bers of Congress concern themselves with acres are gained and lost, and any visible
even knowing what’s in them. Rep. George trends. The book is scheduled for publication
Miller (D-CA) has been the most vocal critic in the spring of 2004 and will be distributed
of these deals in the past few years, but if the widely. Our ultimate goal with this work is
congressional delegation of the affected state to expand awareness of, and catalyze action
is actively (or even passively) supportive of a against, Congress’ secret deals that endanger
land exchange, not even fair-minded mem- our public lands.

Land Exchange Update 4 Winter 2003


Thank you to the following foundations
that are supporting our work
Patagonia Help us design the first
Horizons Foundation
Ferguson Foundation
WLXP t-shirt!
WLXP will soon have a gorgeous T-shirt
Deer Creek Foundation you can wear proudly in support of
Strong Foundation for keeping public lands in public
Environmental Values hands. Your original design
Wiburforce Foundation could be the one chosen!
Besides the honor of having
Maki Foundation your signed creation on hun-
Shared Earth Foundation dreds—perhaps thousands!— of
Weeden Foundation shirts around the country, the
winner will receive a free T-shirt for
New-Land Foundation each of his or her family members.

Feeling the pinch The lucky artist can also claim a tax-
deductible charitable contribution for
The troubled economy has hit every non- the value of their work.
profit we know, many of our friends, and
most of our loyal philanthropic foundation Submit your 8.5” by 11”
supporters. While we’ve kept our budget (maximum) design, either
modest, prospects for 2004 are more
precarious than we’d like. We need your
electronically in a .jpg file to
campbell@westlx.org, or in hard Your
Design
(always tax-deductible) memberships and copy by snail mail. Use only three
donations to keep our momentum going. colors, preferably compatible with
the colors of the logo on our website.
HERE!
Remember: WLXP is the ONLY organization
in the country dedicated solely to the complex Incorporate the phrase “keep public
issues involved in federal land exchanges, lands in public hands” and either the
conveyances, and sales. Our work has had name Western Land Exchange Project
an impact on these issues because we are or our web address, www.westlx.org.
relentless in our pursuit of reforms. We The chosen design will be screened on
need your support to keep the pressure on the back of white and natural-colored,
and to build on our successes. Please fill short-sleeved organic cotton T-shirts. Our
out the back page of this newsletter (or cut logo will be printed on the front. Deadline
out your mailing label) and send it with for design submissions is February 15, 2004.
your check very soon!

Western Land Exchange Project Wish List


Item Needed What For
Transferable air miles Aid our ailing travel budget
PC-compatible scanner Scan stuff to send electronically
Laptop computer For working travel; our 1998 laptop is moribund

Any size or type TV View congressional shenanigans related to land exchanges

Cable service Ditto above

Call us if you have something you think we could use that you want to
give away! The value of your in-kind donation is always tax-deductible.

Land Exchange Update 5 Winter 2003


Western Land Exchange Project
PO Box 95545
Seattle, WA 98145-2545

Keeping
Public Lands
Out Of
Corporate
Hands

westlx.org

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Western Land Exchange Project
PO Box 95545
Seattle, WA 98145-2545
Phone 206.325-3503 Fax 206.325-3515

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12/03