U.S. Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) today joined South Dakota colleagues Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the Department of the Interior (DoI), urging it to abandon proposals to acquire private land along the Niobrara River and Ponca Bluffs areas.
In the letter, the lawmakers write, "Although we agree that targeted conservation initiatives can yield both environmental and economic benefits to an area, we are of the opinion that these goals can be achieved through existing private-federal partnerships and conservation programs without increasing federal jurisdiction over additional private land at taxpayers' expense."
The letter also cited the project's unnecessary added costs to the federal government, its adverse economic impact on affected areas and the likelihood of future government control of private lands under the guise of conservation initiatives.
The public comment period, which allows those affected to weigh in, expires today. DoI extended its initial comment period following a written request by Johanns and Fischer. Johanns, Fischer, Smith and Noem have asked for another extension due to lack of public meetings, inadequate notification and confusion submitting comments. DoI has not responded to their most recent request.
The proposal under consideration could result in government acquisition or management of more than 1.4 million acres of land in Nebraska and South Dakota, affecting up to 1,500 landowners.