View Full Version : Roanoke County Land Sale

Tin Man
03-15-2006, 07:56
Meeting urges protest of forest sale
"This battle will be won or lost in Congress," said the president of the Catawba Valley Civic League.
Cody Lowe

The message was straightforward, Catawba Valley resident Larry Hunt said.

"We want as many people as we can to smother our leaders and the [U.S.] Forest Service with opposition to selling Forest Service land."

If he's right that meetings like the one he attended Monday night at the Catawba Community Center are happening all across the country, Hunt's wish may come true.

He and more than 70 other people -- a few from as far away as South Roanoke and Smith Mountain Lake -- gathered to show a united front against the proposed sale of 121 acres of U.S. Forest Service property near the rural Roanoke County crossroads.

"All the big environmental groups are fighting this one," Hunt said of the national plan to sell off 309,000 acres of public land to raise $1 billion for rural communities' schools.

Catawba Valley Civic League president Del Eyer got a near-unanimous show of hands when he asked participants if they would phone or send e-mail or postcards to an extensive list of congressmen and senators asking that the officials oppose the sale of forest lands to fund what is known as the Rural Schools Act.

"This battle will be won or lost in Congress," Eyer said. His list of contacts included the leaders of numerous congressional committees and subcommittees likely to consider the legislation that would allow the sales, including Virginia Sens. John Warner and George Allen and Rep. Rick Boucher.

He also included information for contacting the U.S. Forest Service, which is charged with collecting citizens' comments through the end of March.

Hunt, whose property abuts the 121-acre tract in Roanoke County and who granted one of only two easements to access the property, is distrustful of the Forest Service, however. "I thought they were benevolent," he said, but no more.

Roger Holnback, executive director of the Western Virginia Land Trust, took the floor to defend the federal agency.

"The Forest Service does not want to give away this land," Holnback insisted, "but they were directed to identify isolated parcels ... by their boss," President Bush. Service employees "care about their forests," he said, but had no option but to release the list of smaller, isolated outparcels, which he said have always been available for swapping for other forest land.

An area such as the Catawba tract has "value as an ecosystem, but is becoming more of an island" that might be suitable for swapping. "The Forest Service, until this statute, had no authority ever to sell national forest land," Hunt said, although swaps were permissible.

But now, Eyer warned, "the next time the federal government wants a little more money, they'll want to sell a little more forest land."

Despite the pervasive sense of dismay at the proposed sale, the tone of the meeting was generally hopeful.

"Anybody that drives [Virginia] 311, or bikes 311 or walks the Appalachian Trail is using the North Mountain viewshed" that is threatened with development in any sale, Hunt said.

After the meeting, Hunt said he is optimistic that a nationwide flood of opposition to the proposed sales will thwart the plan.

And Catawba District Supervisor Butch Church assured the crowd that he expects Roanoke County to officially join that opposition at today's board of supervisors' meeting.

He said he asked County Administrator Elmer Hodge to prepare a resolution for the board to approve and send to the county's congressional delegation "opposing this situation."

"I'm thinking the vote will be 5-0," Church said, and carry the influence of the more than 80,000 people the supervisors represent.

"I've always believed this is one of the prettiest places around, quiet and serene," he said of the Catawba Valley. "You have a right to expect protection. ... I know this is a federal issue, but locally if we go on record to tell the people you vote for and I vote for how we feel, hopefully that will do some good."

Article (http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/wb/xp-56683) from roanoke.com

03-15-2006, 08:48
Some state officials like Gov Easley are opposing the 100,000 acre land sale and the road cutting through the Smokies.
I question the necessity of selling our national forests to raise revenues for the Federal Government. Once this resource is gone we will never be able to get it back..I want my kids to have the opportunity of hiking the AT that looks pretty much the same as when I hiked it... As more of the private lands are developed then it becomes even more important to save some of it so that future generations can have the "wilderness experience". We are just one of many generations to come.. It is not fair for us to hog it all. I wonder if the people who come up with these ideas have kids......

03-15-2006, 09:16
Tax Hike Mike? If he could make some money from it, he would be in on it too. Who knows, maybe he's even playing both sides. As a Virginian living in NC, I have to say that I've never seen anything close to the level of corruption as exists in here in NC. By the way, look at the map for the areas being put up for sale. They are the tiny little red blotches. I think everyone here is over-reacting and it is because they hate Bush from the get go. Hey, I don't agree with him all the time but I think this is makeing a mountain out of a mole hill.

03-15-2006, 09:41
It is always good to have public comment even if the process is messy.

03-15-2006, 09:45
Durn, didn't get to finish that post. The thing about this sale is the precedent it sets. One thing for certain- there isn't much undeveloped land being made any more.

The Solemates
03-15-2006, 12:01
I didnt know this area was up for sale with the recent proposal. This sucks! We fell in love with this area before we thrud the AT, and then fell in love with it again when we did hike. In fact, I am heading to this valley this weekend. We were thinking about moving there in the next 4-6 months. I am really going to have to research this more.

03-15-2006, 13:30
Name calling and political accusations really won't make a difference once the land is gone.. Even though I talked a lot to fellow hikers I really enjoyed the peace and solitude of the trail.. I didn't like it when the trail ran right by that noisy Celenese plant... I don't care what political party you are with,, Once the damage is done you can't get it back... The other thing is that this is not isolated tracts. They are proposing to sell a lot more than that... Hikers should oppose this sale if they really want to preserve some of the best of America...
"I don't mind chopping wood, and I don't care if the money 's no good, Take what you need and leave the rest.. But They Should Have Never taken the Very Best"
The Night they Drove ole Dixie Down.......