John Day Fossil Beds
Administrative History
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Chapter Four:

Legislated boundary changes

Within four months of the monument's establishment, NPS officials recognized problems in all three units which necessitated adjustments in authorized boundaries. They took care to avoid accusations of unwarranted expansion by limiting the monument's size to no more than the already authorized 14,402 acres. [92] Rensberger's report became the tool to pursue boundary changes aimed at incorporating significant paleontological resources lying adjacent to the monument as early as January 1976. [93] Planners stipulated, however, that additions had to be compensated by deletions of land next to park boundaries which did not contain fossils, and had instead a higher use for game management or public hunting. [94] This made changes in the Clarno Unit's configuration the driving force behind this legislation because they represented paleontological resources not otherwise represented within the monument. [95]

At first, the proposed additions at Clarno consisted of only 360 acres because NPS planners rigidly followed what the CPSU resource map derived from Rensberger's findings indicated as the location of the nut beds and mammal quarry. [96] Consequently, Congressman UlIman drafted a bill introduced in the House of Representatives on July 15, 1977. It referred to a map containing this change and one deleting 545 acres of private land at Clarno, in addition to 80 acres of NPS property identified for use as trading stock. [97] UlIman visited the monument on August 8, 1977, at which time Ladd and Camp Hancock director Joseph Jones approached him with a proposal to add another 560 acres to the Clarno Unit. [98] Jones supplied sufficient detail concerning significant paleontological and archeological sites located there for UlIman to request an official NPS position on the proposal. [99] Once the NPS supplied a statement of significance, information about land ownership, and cost estimates for acquisition, UlIman incorporated both additions into his bill. [100]

View of the mammal quarry in July 1977
View of the mammal quarry in July 1977. At the time it was located outside of the Clarno Unit's authorized boundary.
(NPS photo)

Boundary adjustments at Painted Hills stemmed from landowners proposing to construct a dam which could back reservoir water into the unit. Borgman and Ladd opposed the project at a meeting with the Soil Conservation Service and local ranchers in 1975, but it surfaced again when Brooks Resources Corporation bought several key parcels in the spring of 1977. [101] Several months later they secured an impoundment permit from the State Division of Lands for a dam site located less than one-quarter mile north of the Painted Hills Unit. The new owners began construction of the dam by mid-1978, and shortly thereafter proposed to extend the dam 27 feet higher than authorized. [102]

Water impoundment as seen from the Painted Cove Trail
Water impoundment as seen from the Painted Cove Trail, Painted Hills Unit, 1992.
The inundation shown has yet to reach levels authorized by the land exchange with Brooks Resources.
(photo by the author)

This latest proposal came relatively late with respect to adjusting monument boundaries in legislation, but it represented an opportunity for the NPS to have virtually all of the Painted Hills Unit in federal ownership. In exchange for allowing 50 acres of federal land to be inundated, Brooks Resources agreed to sell 300 acres located within the authorized boundaries on either a fee or less-than-fee basis. Since the 50 acre parcel did not possess any known paleontological resources, the NPS agreed to terms which included removal of a stock driveway along the road through Painted Hills. [103] The revised legislative proposal also allowed acquisition of a 40 acre parcel owned by the state which had previously been excluded. [104]

The 849 acre acquisition at the Cant Ranch in January 1976 pointed to lift the authorizing legislation's 1,000 acre limitation in obtaining fee title to privately- held land. Furthermore, the 1974 act provided only $400,000 for acquiring such interest, and the NPS spent nearly all of this amount on the Cant Ranch. [105] To remedy this, the NPS Lands Division recommended that another $3.5 million be authorized for buying property within the monument's boundaries. [106] They earmarked much of it for acquisitions in the Sheep Rock Unit because several property owners there indicated a willingness to negotiate the sale or exchange of their land. [107]

In order for the NPS to justify the purchase of 2,500 acres in this unit, it had to recommend deletion of lands from the monument. Since Rensberger could find no paleontological resources in sections 16, 21, and 28 east of Picture Gorge, NPS officials had little difficulty agreeing to 1,280 acres of deletions but kept half of that total for exchange purposes. They could show a net decrease of 727 acres in the Sheep Rock Unit's authorized total, so a proposal to transfer 80 acres of BLM land at Foree met no resistance. [108]

Overall, the NPS recommended decreasing the monument's authorized size by almost 372 acres. As expected, this proposal experienced no difficulty in Congress while UlIman's original bill eventually became part of larger omnibus legislation. Introduction of HR 9601 signaled the start of the legislative process in October 1977, something which led to testimony at a subcommittee hearing by a witness from the Department of the Interior on November 28. At that point the witness stated that the NPS still had to finish a corresponding map for changes at John Day Fossil Beds. [109] The delay did not prove to be an obstacle, as provision for the monument's boundary adjustments became part of amended omnibus legislation by May 1978. Initially called S 2876 and HR 12536, the bills had accompanying Senate and House reports in which there was reference to a completed map and an acquisition ceiling of $3.5 million. [110] A conference version, S791, carried identical wording, which, on November 10, 1978, became law as part of P.L. 95-625. [111] This reduced the monument to 14,030.51 acres, but Ladd and other NPS officials described the new boundaries as providing better protection of fossil resources. [112]

Monument boundaries authorizing a total of 14,030 acres resulted
from passage of legislation in 1978
Monument boundaries authorizing a total of 14,030 acres resulted from passage of legislation in 1978. The NPS partially offset deletion of acreage totaling two sections (1,280) acres in the Sheep Rock Unit with an increase at Foree, but the park total declined even with an expansion at Clarno and a slight gain at Painted Hills.

End of Chapter 4

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Last Updated: 30-Apr-2002