(02/13/2006)
Protecting America's natural woodlands and waters continues to be an ongoing battle, now being fought by hundreds of conservation and environmentalist groups.

Five-thousand-acres of WVs treasured Monongahela National Forest is being put on the auction block for private development, part of a national sell-off of forest lands owned by the government.

The hook being used to gain support is that the proceeds will go to schools and roads in rural areas, raising $800 million.

Congressman Nick Rahall says the land sale could have irreversible consequences for West Virginia - leaving the state with far fewer acres to hunt, fish and enjoy nature.

Nationwide, nearly 300-thousand acres of national forest and grasslands are being put on the auction block.

The sell-off is a result of counties complaining they cannot collect taxes on federal land, so the federal government agreed to give them proceeds from timber sales and other receipts.

Then, because timber sales dwindled in the 1990s, Congress passed a law in 2000 that guaranteed payments regardless of those sales.

The law, known as the Secure Rural Schools Act, expires at the end of the fiscal year in September. The Bush administration wants to extend it for five years, but wants Congress to allow the sale of national forest land to pay for it.


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