ECOSYSTEM PROTECTION ACT
a. The Ecosystem Protection Act creates bigger and better wild lands or Ecosystem Protection Areas throughout the country.
· It protects the centers of the designated National Forests in the southern, eastern and mid-western regions of the country from second home sprawl and other developments by purchasing privately owned in-holdings on a willing seller-willing buyer basis.
· It raises the level of protection for various western Wilderness Areas and their surroundings to that of every Wilderness Area in the southern, eastern and mid-western parts of the country through a voluntary program of buying out grazing permits.
· It authorizes the creation of state-owned Ecosystem Protection Areas in nine states without a National Forest through a federal aid program for land acquisition.
b. The Ecosystem Protection Areas or big wild lands created by this act in every area of the country will provide the following:
· primitive recreation for the nations people,
· the protection of habitat for native wildlife still living in the area,
· the return of the forests to wild land conditions,
· the basis for selective reintroductions of rare and endangered species formerly living in these areas,
· enhanced preservation of the water for use by downstream metropolitan communities and others.
c. The act creates forty two Ecosystem Protection Areas in thirty one states within the National Forests.
· Each Ecosystem Protection Area will be based on an existing Congressionally-designated Wilderness Area. The selected areas are the best-of-the-best Wilderness Areas in each area of the country. The Wilderness Areas will be managed consistent with existing law, except that grazing will be subject to a voluntary buyout program for grazing permitees.
· The Southern, Eastern and Midwestern Ecosystem Protection Areas will be at least 50,000 acres in size. The Wilderness Areas will be surrounded by an even larger Primitive Area. The Primitive Areas will be managed so that primitive recreation, habitat for endangered and threatened species, reforestation and rewilding will be the paramount considerations and all other multiple use activities will only be used to reinforce the paramount considerations.
· The Western Ecosystem Protection Areas will be much larger. There, Primitive Areas will be relatively smaller in comparison to the core Wilderness Area. In both areas grazing will be subject to a voluntary grazing buyout program for grazing permits. Otherwise the Wilderness Areas and Primitive Areas will be managed in the same manner as those in the rest of the country.
d. The act also authorizes the creation of nine state-owned Ecosystem Protection Areas in states without a National Forest large enough to qualify for this act. The named state areas are based on large existing State open space holdings. It further provides full federal funding for land acquisition of areas selected by the states and approved as consistent with this act by the Forest Service.
· The state-owned areas will be administered as Ecosystem Protection Areas pursuant to this act and State law.
e. The act provides for a voluntary federal grazing permit buyout program for the Ecosystem Protection Areas located in western states.
· The voluntary permit buyout plan provides a new option for 346 federal grazing permitees.
· The permitee may exercise this privilege at any time in the future. He will be compensated at $175.00 per animal unit month (AUM).
· The act also features and early-out bonus. Any permitee who exercises this privilege within six months of the bills enactment will receive $300.00 per AUM. If a permitee exercises the option between six months and four years of the bills enactment he will receive $250.00 per AUM.
· If the permitees base property is also on the National Forest, he may also exercise another option to sell it to the Forest Service at fair market value.
f. The act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to cooperate with land trusts in acquiring property pursuant to this act.
g. The act authorizes $140,000,000 per year for a period of fourteen years to carry out its provisions.
$100,000,000 per year is
authorized for land acquisition on the Southern, Eastern and
· $5,000,000 per year is authorized for land acquisition on Western National Forests.
· $2,000,000 per year is authorized for the voluntary federal grazing buyout program.
· $33,000,000 per year is authorized as Federal Aid for state land acquisition in states without a National Forest.