Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced final congressional approval Wednesday to transfer federal land to local control in La Pine and Wallowa, allowing for increased economic development in both communities.
Both plans passed the House unanimously and were approved by the Senate late last year, meaning they now go to President Obama's desk for his signature.
“Senator Wyden and I worked together with the citizens of La Pine and Wallowa on these two common-sense proposals that will boost economic opportunities in these areas by giving control of land there from the federal government to the local community,” Walden said.
“The La Pine Land Conveyance Act will transfer land from the federal government to Deschutes County and the city of La Pine to allow them to build a permanent home for the ‘Greatest Little Rodeo in Oregon,’ construct a new wastewater treatment facility, and have their library sit on city land instead of federal land," he added.
"This plan will boost economic development in La Pine, and give the community more control over its land as Oregon’s newest city expands,” Walden said.
“The Wallowa Forest Service Compound Conveyance Act will return a small parcel of land from the federal government to the city, allowing them to convert the existing Forest Service compound — which has fallen into disrepair—into an interpretative site to teach history about Maxville, a railroad logging town that existed 15 miles north of Wallowa," the congressman said.
"Passing this plan today will allow the community to attract tourists and tell this unique history to visitors and residents alike,” Walden said.
The La Pine Land Conveyance Act (S. 270) will transfer about 150 acres to the La Pine Park and Recreation District to establish a more permanent home for the La Pine Rodeo, and the community’s largest event of the year — the 4th of July Celebration. “The Greatest Little Rodeo in Oregon” draws thousands of people into the area.
It will also transfer approximately 750 acres for the purposes of building a new wastewater treatment facility that would allow residents to transition from septic systems to municipal water and sewer. This provides residents with a reliable water source while improving the water quality of the nearby Deschutes River.
Finally, it will transfer approximately 10 acres to La Pine for the city’s library or as open space, lawmakers said.
The Wallowa Forest Service Compound Conveyance Act (S. 271) will transfer surplus federal land from the Forest Service and return it to the city of Wallowa, which donated the land to the federal government in 1936 for creation of a now-defunct ranger station compound.
Returning this land will allow the city and a local non-profit organization to establish a historical visitor’s center to help draw visitors to town, providing an added boost to local small businesses.
Both bills were introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and cosponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). They were passed by the Senate in late 2011, and Walden worked with the House Natural Resources Committee to pass them in the House.
“Tourism in Oregon has the potential to create significant economic growth for local communities, and these two bills provide the towns of La Pine and Wallowa with that opportunity,” Wyden said. “In addition to a boost in tourism these bills will allow for important improvements to infrastructure and public works projects that will enhance the lives of those in the community. Thanks to Rep. Walden and the Oregon delegation for helping to make these bills law.”
“Oregon has long been known for its amazing recreation and tourism opportunities, and today’s news means that tradition will grow even further,” said Merkley. “Increasing tourism and improving infrastructure will boost local economies in La Pine and Wallowa, and getting this bill signed into law will allow Oregon to share its natural wonders and historic attractions with even more of the country and the world.”
The La Pine Land Conveyance Act will transfer 150 acres of land currently under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management to the control of Deschutes County. The county will then be able to use the land to develop rodeo grounds and the future development of ball fields and parks and recreation facilities in an effort to boost tourism.