Washington, D.C. – With tourism in eastern Oregon being a promising way to boost the economy of local communities, legislation to transfer federal land to the cities of La Pine and Wallowa passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today. Introduced by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the pair of bills benefitting La Pine and Wallowa as well as Deschutes County will give these localities access to hundreds of acres of federal land for community attractions, historic preservation and improvements to infrastructure.
“For these Oregon towns, tourism has the potential for significant economic growth and I thank the committee for giving La Pine and Wallowa the land they need to boost their economies,” Wyden said. “Not only will the land transfers boost tourism, they will allow for important infrastructure improvements and public works projects. They will help to improve the quality of life in these communities.”
“Increased tourism and improvements in infrastructure in rural Oregon provide customers for our small businesses and create jobs. These land transfers are integral to those goals in La Pine and Wallowa,” Merkley said. “I applaud Senator Wyden for shepherding these two bills through the Senate Energy Committee and will continue to work with him to ensure Senate passage.”
The La Pine Land Conveyance Act gives the County of Deschutes a 150-acre conveyance of land currently under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. The county will be able to use that land to boost tourism by developing rodeo grounds and allow for the future development of ball fields and parks and recreation facilities.
A separate 750-acre conveyance will be transferred to Deschutes County to be used for better wastewater management by the sewer district. The planned expansion of the town’s wastewater treatment plant has been on hold for years due to lack of space. The BLM property found entirely within the city limits will allow for that expansion to mitigate septic systems that are generating elevated levels of nitrate in the groundwater. A third piece of land – roughly 10-acres in size – will be given to the City of La Pine for use of the library or as city open spaces.
The Wallowa Forest Service Compound Conveyance Act transfers a Forest Service Ranger Station to the city of Wallowa to be used as a cultural center recognizing the rich culture of the community. The city will work with a non-profit group to create the center that will serve as a tourist destination, providing an economic boost for the community.