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Umbagog boondoggle: Ayotte needs to help stop this
We don’t hold out much hope for Jeanne Shaheen on the issue, but we trust New Hampshire’s other U.S. senator, Kelly Ayotte, will pay attention to the pleas of North Country residents and officials who are just fed up with a federal government that spends tax dollars we don’t have for projects we don’t want.
Or, as Coos Country Treasurer Fred King of Colebrook said recently, “The federal government, while it is broke, is buying land that it doesn’t need, can’t use and can’t pay for.’’
At issue here is the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, a 76,000-acre, heavily forested tract around the big Lake Umbagog that straddles the Maine-New Hampshire border.
In the town of Errol, the government already owns one-third of the land and is causing the small town’s residents and businesses to pay higher and higher property taxes on the remainder.
The federal Fish and Wildlife Service owns 27,000 acres of the refuge already, but controls the rest through easements, and its policy of forbidding much lumbering operations further hurts the local economy.
The feds have paid exorbitant prices for their land-buying. Fred King figures one purchase amounted to a figure of $500,000 per acre, far above its appraisal price. The federal officials at a recent hearing didn’t disagree. They didn’t agree.
They refused to address either King’s figures or his repeated question as to whether they intended to buy all the property.
“They’ll pick ’em off one by one,’’ King predicted, though the feds did say they doubted there would be money in the next federal budget for such land buying.
But since when has a lack of money stopped the federal government?
We hope that Sen. Ayotte, if she gets a break from campaigning for Mitt Romney, will help the people of Errol and the Umbagog region in their quest for a moratorium on any more of this wasteful spending.
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