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Memorandum of Disapproval of the National Forest Lands Bill

December 28, 1980

I am withholding my approval of H.R. 6257, a bill to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to convey certain National Forest System lands and for other purposes. As originally introduced in Congress, this was a noncontroversial bill providing a simplified procedure for conveying small parcels of land within the National Forest System. Sections one through seven of the bill would accomplish this purpose. However, during the closing hours of the 96th Congress, a new section 8 was added that would adversely affect the Alaska Railroad, an agency of the Department of Transportation.

Section 8 would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations for the rental of Alaska Railroad lands under terms that would result in a loss of revenue to the Railroad, provide for inequitable treatment of different tenants, and create a complicated method for determining rents that would be extremely difficult to administer. It would further delay the Railroad's effort to raise its lease land rents to fair market value, and it would lock into statute past practices that have been criticized by the General Accounting Office and the Department of Transportation. It would also inhibit the Railroad's ability to establish a modern lease land development program consistent with normal commercial practice.

The Railroad is operated as a self-sustaining business by the Federal Government, to the benefit of the State of Alaska and its citizens. Rental income from rail lands is used to pay part of its operating costs. The loss of revenue resulting from this bill may force the Railroad to curtail service or require a new federal operating subsidy to make up the difference. A curtailment of service would injure those shippers and residents of Alaska who use the Railroad, and an increase in federal funds for the Railroad is unacceptable.

For these reasons, I am vetoing H.R. 6257. However, I support those provisions in the bill that would give the Secretary of Agriculture authority to dispose of small tracts of National Forest lands that have become difficult to administer efficiently. This authority, which the Department of Agriculture has been seeking for several years, would greatly facilitate the disposal of approximately 200,000 acres of National Forest lands that present special management problems and would eliminate the need for a case-by-case authorization from the Congress before such lands can be sold or exchanged. Therefore, I urge the 97th Congress to enact similar authority early next year.


The White House,

December 28, 1980.

Note: The text of the memorandum of disapproval was released on December 29.

Jimmy Carter, Memorandum of Disapproval of the National Forest Lands Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250849

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