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January 11, 2008

   Andrew Tkach

Westside Irrigation District Land Transfer Study Available

The Bureau of Land Management Worland Field Office has released its draft of an environmental impact statement analyzing the transfer of up to 16,500 acres of public lands in Big Horn and Washakie counties to the Westside Irrigation District (WID). The land will be available for transfer to the WID at appraised value after the environmental analysis is finalized, possibly in late 2008.

Public land is occasionally exchanged for land of equal value if it is in the public interest, but it is rarely sold outright. The transfer of these public lands to WID is directed by public law established in 2000.

WID proposes to resell the land for agricultural development in Washakie and Big Horn counties. Although BLM will have no regulatory control of the land after the transfer, the agency is analyzing the effects of actions such as conversion of land to agricultural use and construction of irrigation infrastructure and diversion points in the Bighorn River.   Socio-economic effects that could result from the land transfer are also being studied.

Public Law 106-485 provides for proceeds from the sale to be available for the acquisition of land in the Worland Field Office area that will benefit public recreation, public access, fish and wildlife habitat, or cultural resources.

The public and other interested parties are encouraged to participate in the environmental analysis to ensure the best land use decisions are made.

Comments will be accepted until March 4, 2008: The public can review the document and submit comments at: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/wfodocs/westside.html