An ambitious plan by the federal government to create the Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Area has run into opposition.
In fact, a request to extend the period in which the public can comment on the plan has solidified into direct opposition to it by a significant portion of the Nebraska and South Dakota Congressional delegation.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposes establishing a 1.4 million acre conservation area along the confluence of the Missouri River and the Niobrara River, down to the Ponca Bluffs.
The Department of Interior granted one extension already, closing the public comment period at the end of September.
Sen. Deb Fischer wants more time for the public to weigh in.
“Because we’ve received hundreds of letters from people who are upset at the handling of this by the federal government,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call.
Fischer says residents of the area affected brought their concerns home to her during the August recess when she held a meeting in Bassett. Landowners from far northeastern Nebraska traveled to Bassett to express their disapproval of the plan.
Fischer, Sen. Mike Johanns and Congressman Adrian Smith of Nebraska have joined with Sen. John Thune and Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota in raising questions about the plan.
Johanns says conversations with colleagues who’s states have large tracts owned by the federal government convince him that the federal government has been a very, very poor neighbor.
“They do a very poor job of maintaining things, taking care of things,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters in a conference call. “I just fundamentally believe that landowners are the best stewards of the land.”
South Dakota State Senator Dan Lederman issued a news release on Friday, stating that the delegation has taken its opposition a step further, now recommending the service take no action on its plan.
The letter states in part:
“In the current era of high federal deficits, we do not believe the projected costs of this project are justified, nor do we believe the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) reflects there would be satisfactory benefits to the U.S. taxpayers in return for the federal outlays required to fund and maintain this proposed project area.”
Sen. Lederman has been a leading opponent of the proposal.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]