Washington, D.C. -U.S. Senator Mike Enzi is inviting U. S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Michael B. Dombeck to help resolve problems regarding access to state inholdings within federal public lands. Enzi said he hopes to avoid costly legal battles with a simple solution.
Enzi recently wrote a letter to the chief recommending legislation that would provide states access to their properties located within national forest lands using existing USFS roads. Enzi's request comes after Wyoming state officials had difficulty accessing a section of state school trust land within the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.
Enzi proposes that federal agencies be "required to provide access to inholding properties ... without issuing permits to use existing roads" and "inholding owners, managers, and individuals or companies doing business with the manager of the inholding would be required to obtain a federal special use permit that addresses maintenance, time of use, etc., in order to use existing roads."
The USFS had granted a Forest Road Special Use Permit to an existing road to a commercial timber company who had contracted with the state to build a road and harvest timber on state school trust lands. The USFS later withdrew that same permit after a lawsuit was filed that claimed the USFS failed to follow the National Environmental Policy Act in granting the permit. The USFS then allowed the state of Wyoming access to the state school trust land for administrative purposes, so long as those purposes did not involve assisting the state road project. The state only wanted to complete its projects, using existing roads to do so, but was held back by complicated bureaucracy.
"My efforts are to avoid bottlenecks like this in the future," Enzi said. "Everyone should
be allowed to conduct their business on their rightful property, in a way that is safe and productive to the land and the agencies involved."
Through a cooperative effort with the USFS, Enzi said he hopes to avoid wasting valuable time and resources in similar situations in the future. The legislation could be introduced next session.
Enzi sent his letter to Dombeck asking for his input on Dec. 6, 1999. For a copy of the letter, call Lindsay or Coy at 202-224-3424.