Vitter bill proposes land sale in Kisatchie forest

By Tom Aswell
Capitol News Service

U.S. Sen. David Vitter has introduced two Senate bills which affect land in three parishes in central Louisiana, some of that in the Kisatchie National Forest which includes all or parts of seven parishes in central and north Louisiana.

S. 61 would authorize the Department of Agriculture to sell specified land in Winn parish, Louisiana. The USDA would also be required to sell a portion of this land to Collins Camp Properties Inc. The land sold would be put to use for additional campsites in Kisatchie National Forest. Proceeds from the sale will be put toward acquisition of land and other interests for Kisatchie National Forest.

The specified land to be transferred by quitclaim deed is all Federal land located within sec. 9, T. 10 N., R5 W., Winn Parish, Louisiana and a 2.16-acre parcel of Federal land located in the SW1/4 of sec. 4, T. 10 N., R. 5 W., Winn Parish, Louisiana.

The text of S. 61, obtained by Capitol News Service in Baton Rouge, carries the title of the "Kisatchie National Forest Land Conveyance Act." Testimony on the bill was heard on July 16 by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. The committee is chaired by U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

Vitter's bill proposes selling the two tracts which combine for a total of about 48 acres. An unspecified portion of that land is to be sold to Collins Camp Properties in Winn Parish "for market value consideration." Receipts from the sale are to be used for the acquisition by the federal government of additional "land and interests in land in the Kisatchie National Forest," according to the bill.

Collins Camp Properties, in turn, would use the land for additional campsites in Kisatchie National Forest, according to an announcement from Vitter's Washington office.

The Louisiana Secretary of State's corporate filings, which indicate Collins Camp Properties as "not in good standing for failure to file (an) annual report, show the corporation's president to be Tommy Bankston and its treasurer to be Lawrence I. White, both of Winnfield.

State campaign finance records show that Bankston and another of his companies, Willow Ridge Nursing & Rehabilitation, are politically active, contributing to numerous political campaigns, but neither was shown to have contributed to Vitter's gubernatorial campaign.

Vitter's other bill which was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, S. 1791, would amend the Delta Development Act to include Vernon and Sabine parishes in the definition of the term "Lower Mississippi."

The Delta Development Act of 1989 established the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission to study and make recommendations concerning the economic needs and economic development of the Lower Mississippi Delta, which includes parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

The act directs the Commission, among other things, to:
* Study the projected ten-year economic needs of the region;
* Review existing Federal, State, local, and private programs for business development and financing;
* Develop inventories of the region's business resources and natural resources;
* Study the role of small business in creating jobs in the region, and
* Make recommendations to the Congress regarding tax policies, business development programs, investment incentives, infrastructure development, and a number of other economic development issues.

It also requires:
* An interim report on its activities to specified congressional leadership, the President, and the Governors of the affected States, within nine months of its first meeting, and
* Its final report of required findings and recommendations to these same parties, within 18 months of the same meeting.
* Termination of the Commission 120 days after submission of its final report.

While it was not immediately clear how many Louisiana parishes are included in the commission study, former Sen. John Breaux amended the act in 2000 to include Natchitoches Parish.

Kisatchie National Forest currently spans 7 central and northern Louisiana parishes.