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House votes to restrict federal land purchases

April 20, 1999
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 133

JEFFERSON CITY - If you want to sell your land to the federal government, the state House wants to intervene.

The House passed, 88-31, a bill that would require the state legislature's approval for federal land purchases. The bill allows the legislature to refuse a potential sale, meaning a seller might not receive the best price.

Columbia Rep. Vicky Riback-Wilson voted against the proposal.

"This bill puts a barrier in the way of private individuals who want to sell their land," she said.

During the debate other representatives -- even those who voted for the bill -- raised the issue of infringing on landowner rights.

Several argued if a company and the government are bidding for the land and the legislature prohibits the government from making the purchase, the price will not be as high.

Bill proponents cited a US Consitution section that indicates all federal land purchases need state legislature approval. Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-St. Louis County, refutes their interpretation of the Constitution.

Rep. Wayne Crump, D-Potosi, sponsored the bill to protect the waning lead mine industry in his district.

Doe Run Company owns all eight of Missouri's lead mines. Spokesman Walter Nowotny said the mines will run dry in 10-20 years.

Since the federal government often prohibits mining on its lands, Crump and Nowotny want to keep land where potential lead reserves exist free from federal government control.

In addition, Crump fears legislation pending in Congress that would ban firearms in federal lands. Crump was a major backer of the recently defeated proposition B.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment is also trying to stop restrictions on federal land purchases.

"Federal ownership of land promotes conservation, recreation and water quality," said Coalition spokesman Roy Hengerson.

Hengerson said the measure would create a "bureaucratic nightmare," as the legislature would find itself bogged down with routine federal land purchases.

Some legislators estimated about 100 purchases would come before the legislature in a year, meaning an extra 100 bills would have to be processed.

Crump's bill, which now advances to the Senate, is limited to land purchases for reforestation, recreation or agriculture.