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‘Secret’ Environmental Designation Could Impact Franklin County Farmers

Federal environmental decision could take farmland way in Franklin County
(Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)

A shocking surprise was discovered recently by about a dozen Franklin County farmers and other agricultural operations in the White Bluffs area.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service embarked on a program in 2011 to protect two species that supposedly only live in the Hanford and White Bluffs area. This followed a legal settlement with the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity.

The species include the so-called “bladderpod” plant. It’s essentially a species of sagebrush with a small yellow flower.

Without any public hearings or input from area citizens who might have been affected, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced April 22 of this year it would establish a 2,861-acre Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) in the White Bluffs area on the Franklin County side of the Columbia River.

Some 419 acres of that ESA include privately-owned land. According to information supplied by staffers from Doc Hasting’s office to area farmers, some 13 Franklin County farms and agricultural operations would not be allowed to work some of the land they own due to the ESA. It is also likely they would be required to establish a 1,000-foot buffer zone between the farms and the ESA.

The Fish and Wildlife office did not, by their own admission, check to see who the property owners were, or include them in the discussions. Staffers from Congressman Hasting’s office obtained public Franklin County maps and supplied them to the service, clearly identifying at least 13 farmers and agricultural operations affected. The service claimed it did not know who owned the private lands!

Sources have told Newstalk 870 that Chairman Hastings strongly opposes this designation and plans to weigh in directly with the Interior Department and Fish and Wildlife Service. Apparently, this private land inclusion in the ESA was not made public to anyone until the initial announcement in April!

These farmers are scrambling to at least delay this ESA designation, as it is slated to go into effect May 23.

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