Critics Smoldering Over Proposed Forest Sale
About 70 acres of the forest near Ashland, along Burnett School Road, could be sold. But, the proposal is meeting some resistance from neighbors.
A "no trespassing" sign marks the entrance to 105 acres of the forest that Carl Freiling owns. On the other side of the sign is the entrance to 47 acres of federally-owned land that might be sold. The problem is that the University of Missouri's property starts 75 feet from the sign.
If the proposal goes through, Freiling said the 75-foot strip would be the only entrance developers could use to get to their properties. So, he's against any sale, and would not let construction equipment go through his property.
"You could condemn it to get access, but you can't do it to the university," said Freiling. "And I can't imagine they'd grant permission."
He said a developer would have to blast through a nearby bluff to get to the land on the other side.
The U.S. Forest Service said federal officials have not discussed how private buyers would be able to access their lands in the proposed sale areas.
Freiling used to own that land, but he sold it to the federal government 25 years ago because he wanted the land to stay out of private hands. Now, the federal government might sell it.
"The whole idea of selling off public lands to fund a political program is unacceptable in principal," he complained.
Freiling wrote to the Forest Service on Friday, telling the agency that a nearby university weather tower would pick up incorrect data if heavy equipment starts working in the area. He also told the Forest Service that private ownership would interfere with university research in the area.
The Secure Rural Schools Act paid $3 million to 29 Missouri counties last year. Supporters said money from the proposed sale of Mark Twain National Forest land would also pay for county school and road projects. Critics have said there's no guarantee that money from the sale of forest land would come back to Boone and Callaway counties.