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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

In brief: Congress eases way to transfer federal lands

PUBLIC LANDS – The 115th Congress began work on Tuesday and wasted no time approving a measure to facilitate transfers of some federal public lands and waters to state, local and private interests.

The vote, largely along party lines as part of a rules package, showed support for recalculating the costs of public lands transfers and easing current restrictions for shifting their oversight.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

The provision would designate any transfer legislation “budget neutral,” eliminating existing safeguards against undervaluing public lands, disregarding any revenue or economic benefits currently generated and paving the way for transferring lands and waters – including national forests, wildlife refuges and BLM lands.

“Buried in a litany of other measures is language inserted by Congressman Bishop that would make it easier to give away America’s public lands,” Land Tawney, president of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers based in Missoula.

Studies show that individual states are ill-equipped to shoulder the costs of managing lands currently owned by the public and, if they took ownership of these lands, would ultimately be forced to sell them to private interests, Tawney said.

Pearl Jam boosts Ferry County trail

TRAILS – Eddie Vedder, front man for the rock group Pearl Jam, says the band plans to contribute $25,000 to the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners’ next surfacing project on the trail that runs from near Republic to the Canada border.

The donation comes from the Vitalogy Foundation, which supports the efforts of nonprofit organizations doing commendable work in the fields of community health, the environment, arts and education and social change.

The Ferry County Rail Trail is a 25-mile multi-use, nonmotorized route along an abandoned railway that connects four towns, two school complexes and has miles of waterfront on Curlew Lake and the Kettle River.

“I’m totally amazed,” said Bob Whittaker, president of FCRTP.

Vedder, a friend of Whittaker’s from their youth in Seattle, has supported the rail trail in the past with signed skateboards. Vedder also autographed a ukulele used in recording his album “Ukulele Songs” and donated it to the Ferry County group for an auction that raised $17,000 for the trail.

Keith Bell, vice president of FCRTP, said the funds will likely be used as a match for a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant to continue applying a surface to the rail trail.

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