282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

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282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby Dano » Mon Jul 22, 2013 7:50 am

I'll try to paste this, but the Congressman from Gainesville is offering legislation that gives Camp Merrill the ownership of the 282 acres it is currently leasing. That means we lose miles of FS access like 141, Montgomery Creek Falls trail, and other popular trails. Time to make a little noise? The full article is below and here is how to contact Congressman Collins:

The Honorable Doug Collins
United States House of Representatives
513 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-1009
DC Phone: 202-225-9893
DC Fax: 202-226-1224
Contact Representative Collins: https://dougcollins.house.gov/email-me
WWW Homepage: http://dougcollins.house.gov/
Twitter: @RepDougCollins


Army deal for forest land attracts scrutiny
Leased property used for training personnel.
By Daniel Malloy dmalloy@ajc.com   and Greg Bluestein gbluestein@ajc.com
CAMP MERRILL — The rumble of Humvees and the buzz of choppers are already commonplace to the neighbors of this elite Army base in the rolling hills north of Dahlonega. Some worry they are about to become a lot more frequent if a North Georgia lawmaker’s late legislative push succeeds.
The Army wants to take over a 282-acre swath of land that it leases from the Forest Service to train Army Rangers. After two decades of negotiations didn’t yield a deal, Gainesville Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins stepped in with an amendment to a defense bill that gives the Army the land. Now environmental groups are worried that an expanded military presence could threaten pristine forestland, pollute churning streams and restrict access to the popular web of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails that crisscross the area.
What makes this fight particularly unusual is the Forest Service’s public outing of its concerns with the military takeover. The agency says Collins’ push will cast aside 60 years of cooperation with the military over the land and that any changes should be hashed out by the two sides and not in Congress.
The Army, meanwhile, is firmly backing the land transfer as it heads toward the Senate. Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the commanding general of Fort Benning, wrote a letter to Collins aide Vernon Robinson saying: “I greatly appreciate the legislation and your willingness to assist the Army.”
The opposition to the Army move can seem perplexing in a region that has always had strong ties to the military. Dahlonega, a roughly 20-minute trip down the road from Camp Merrill, is home to the Military College of Georgia, and uniformed soldiers stroll side-by-side with tourists in the town square. military is running up against something equally fierce. The hikers and bikers who flock to the area cherish the relative calm of the woods and worry about smacking into a military transport or happening across target practice at the wrong time.
Something that cropped up in a dozen interviews with opponents is a fear that the Army is building the foundation for a vast new base in the forest. David Govus, a 67-year-old retired grading contractor who lives nearby, uses the term “mission creep,” a reference to military missions that have steadily expanded in scope.
“Listen, I’ve never served. And I’m not anti-military. But enough is enough,” said Govus. “They’ve got huge military bases all over the country. So what gives? Why do they need more land?”
The answer from supporters: It’s not the land they need, but the right to improve it without Forest Service approval. Collins said the Forest Service has delayed projects such as tree trimming and sewer maintenance for additional studies that have cost taxpayers at least $3 million.
The Forest Service said it did not know where that figure came from. Judy Toppins, public affairs officer for the Chattahoochee National Forest, said, “Our employees work efficiently and diligently to meet (the Army’s) sometimes complex needs.”
The two government departments could have agreed to a land swap, and Collins said they were close last year, when the Forest Service could have scored some prime property bordering Lake Lanier. But Collins said the Army balked when the Forest Service asked for an additional $10 million to pay for buildings on the new property.
Toppins said negotiations fell apart because the swap was not “mutually beneficial.” She said the Forest Service has no official position on the Collins bill but wants to work out a deal under existing law.
Toppins said the Forest Service was not aware of Collins’ amendment until shortly before it passed last month with no debate. It was submitted in a flood of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act and passed in a voice vote on the floor.
A common thread in opponents’ concerns is that because it was slipped in as an amendment, they weren’t given a chance to weigh in on the proposal. Frank Gilkeson, a 71-year-old local advocate who lives in the nearby woods, said Collins is betraying his roots as a small-government advocate who often champions the need for less regulation.
“He acts like he doesn’t care or need to know what anyone else thinks,” said Gilkeson, who said the congressman was behaving in an “undemocratic” manner.
Collins disputed the notion that his amendment was a surprise. “We’ve been very transparent in what we’re doing,” Collins said. “We have not tried to hide a thing.”
Georgia Republican U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss say they have no plans to introduce similar legislation in their chamber, but Collins said he will work to get the bill into law while continuing to mediate the dispute.
“We’re still open to work with Forestry, but after 20 years I think it’s time to get something like this done,” Collins said. “We’ll work with all concerned parties.”
Collins said he has the support of the local community, from Dahlonega Mayor Gary McCullough to area state legislators. He said environmental concerns are overblown because the transfer would trigger an evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Army would have to comply with federal wildlife and water quality rules.
One of the Army’s worries is security, and a recent trip to the camp showed why. The Forest Service roads that crisscross the installation offer relatively free access inside. On one venture inside the camp’s fenceless perimeter, a visitor went unchallenged as soldiers nearby rappelled down a wall and practiced formations in a grassy field.
Outside the base, neighbors point out signs of wear-and-tear on winding roads, though it’s uncertain how much came from soldiers and how much from visitors. Deep ruts in the dirt paths make some roads almost impassable, shattered cans from target practices dot the landscape, and clearings that neighbors say have been used for helicopter drops abruptly break the forest.
Some people say the Army may get more than it bargains for if it succeeds in acquiring this land. Lt. Col. Sam Booher, a 71-year-old Army retiree who trained at the camp in the 1960s, said the Army has no business taking control of forestland.
“Is the Army in the business of preventing erosion? Is the Army going to start sending in armed people to prevent poachers?” asked Booher, a Vietnam veteran. “They’re going to get a lot of new responsibility if this passes.”
Not all locals share his concern, though. Dennis Fortner is the pastor of Mount Zion Church, a tiny white chapel that sits on a hill overlooking the base. With each new batch of soldiers, his pews are suddenly packed with 50, 60 soldiers. And he relishes the chance to preach to a greater flock if the camp does expand.
“It’s a blessing for them to be there,” he said. “On my end, the more people who come through, the more good we can do.”

The U.S. Army wants to take over a 282-acre swath of land near Dahlonega called Camp Merrill that it leases from the Forest Service in order to train U.S. Army Rangers.
JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Camp Merrill, near Dahlonega, is the home of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and is the mountain phase of the U.S. Army Ranger School. Environmental groups worry that popular trails would be off limits if the military takes over the land. JASON GETZ / AJC
‎"If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." – James Madison
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby grog » Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:51 am

Is there a map anywhere that details exactly the borders of the 282 acres? Will the land be completely off limits to public use or will it continue along the current status. I.e. currently we can ride right through the camp with no problems (when doing the Montgomery Creek Loop) - something that still amazes me as it's gotta be a CO's nightmare from a security standpoint.

Also, evidently the potential for "losing" this 282 acres has been around for a while as the FS and Army have been negotiating a land swap for a while now.

I think the idea that it's a foundation for a new base is the fodder for the tin hat brigade.
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby tenbsmith » Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:14 am

The bill "passed last month with no debate. It was submitted in a flood of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act..."
"Georgia Republican U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss say they have no plans to introduce similar legislation in their chamber..."

If the bill is already through the house, seems you might want to include the senators.

I get the security concerns, but I'd hate to loose access to that area.
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby Dano » Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:20 am

grog wrote:Is there a map anywhere that details exactly the borders of the 282 acres? Will the land be completely off limits to public use or will it continue along the current status. I.e. currently we can ride right through the camp with no problems (when doing the Montgomery Creek Loop) - something that still amazes me as it's gotta be a CO's nightmare from a security standpoint.

Also, evidently the potential for "losing" this 282 acres has been around for a while as the FS and Army have been negotiating a land swap for a while now.

I think the idea that it's a foundation for a new base is the fodder for the tin hat brigade.



Those are great questions. I did ride FS 141 about 3 weeks ago and noticed a substantial addition of that annoying large gravel being laid down in many more places that ever before. At first I thought there was some logging going on, but noticed about 4-5 acres or complete clear-cut not far from the base. Even if the 282 does not cover much trail, the ingress/egress from the lower Camp Merrill exit is in jeopardy of being eliminated. I do not know of a military owned property that is open to citizens. I'll look around for a map when I get a little more time. Thanks.
‎"If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." – James Madison
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby grog » Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:22 am

tenbsmith wrote:The bill "passed last month with no debate. It was submitted in a flood of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act..."
"Georgia Republican U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss say they have no plans to introduce similar legislation in their chamber..."

If the bill is already through the house, seems you might want to include the senators.

I get the security concerns, but I'd hate to loose access to that area.


tenb, tenb, tenb . . . when something is not very tight, it is "loose" . . . when you have lost something, you "lose" it . . .

(today "grog" is playing the role, as understudy, of captain grammarcheck . . . )
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby tenbsmith » Mon Jul 22, 2013 12:27 pm

I think of you more as captain grammar check junior. :P

If it ever stops raining, we'll have to catch a lunchtime sope ride again.
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby grog » Mon Jul 22, 2013 12:43 pm

Upon further review . . . truly, is it a job for captain grammar check or major spell check?

tenbsmith wrote:If it ever stops raining, we'll have to catch a lunchtime sope ride again.


Say the word . . .
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby MrUnderhill » Tue Jul 23, 2013 8:39 am

when they kick in your front door
how you gonna come
with your hands on your head
or on the trigger of your gun
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby mtntriathlete » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:45 am

There is not one issue with this legislation that will effect one inch of the trails of the Bull Mountain Complex or access to Montgomery Creek. FYI: The new patches of gravel you are referring to are from the logging companies repairing damage to the roads they created logging as part of USFS timber sales in the Montgomery Creek Area, and Black Farms Areas.
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby Dano » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:18 am

The Army is interested in the transfer of 282 acres of National Forest System lands to the Department of Defense. This land area, as shown in the map, encompasses Camp Frank D. Merrill and is transected by the Etowah River. Located near Dahlonega, Georgia, the property is the site of training by the Ranger Training Brigade Mountain Phase, which has occurred since 1951 under a special use permit granted by the USDA Forest Service. The cost to the Army for Forest Service administration of this permit is approximately $55,000/year.
An amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act by Congressman Doug Collins would permanently transfer jurisdiction of the land area without consideration from the Forest Service to the Department of Defense.
The Interchange Act is a longstanding process in place between the Forest Service and Department of Defense that does not require legislation and ensures that the public interest is protected by requiring both agencies to find an exchange that is mutually beneficial and provides for public disclosure. The recently introduced legislation does not use the Interchange Act to allow for an exchange, but rather provides for a unilateral transfer.
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby Dano » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:19 am

tenbsmith wrote:The bill "passed last month with no debate. It was submitted in a flood of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act..."
"Georgia Republican U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss say they have no plans to introduce similar legislation in their chamber..."

If the bill is already through the house, seems you might want to include the senators.

I get the security concerns, but I'd hate to loose access to that area.



Senator Saxby Chambliss
416 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
PH: 202-224-3521
FX: 202-224-0103
http://www.chambliss.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email


Senator Johnny Isakson
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
PH: 202-224-3643
FX: 202-228-0724
http://www.isakson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email
‎"If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." – James Madison
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby grog » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:36 am

While I appreciate the point/counterpoint balance between Dano and mtntriathlete, some support data would help with either argument. Dano, I've read the article you linked but have not seen anywhere that said point blank public access will be lost. It's somewhat of a reasonable assumption I'll admit but not a foregone conclusion. If, however, you've seen something that at least points towards that being the case, I'd love to see it.

Conversely, mtntriathlete, what supporting data do you have that backs up your claim that the legislation will NOT affect any of the trails? Honestly, your claim is a little more difficult to take at face value because if the Army DOES, in fact, take ownership of the land, it's not unreasonable to expect them to start limiting/prohibiting public access in the name of security (and, honestly, I find no fault in that).

The map MrUnderhill linked to helps but, as small as it is, is a touch difficult to get a full picture. It seems, though, that Montgomery Creek will be the only trail that might possibly be truly affected by this.
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby MrUnderhill » Tue Jul 23, 2013 12:15 pm

The link was posted on IMBA-SORBA's Communication Director Robin Allen's Fb page by Richard Moon. She replied she would be looking into the matter.
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby Dano » Tue Jul 23, 2013 12:28 pm

Good questions Grog. This is government land grab. Once they take it over, in my opinion, they will close it to all civilians. Not entirely clear how much trail and FS access will be lost because I can't find a definite boundary map. That link you see on Robin's FB page is a guesstimate at best.

I only jumped on this because a friend that I ride with out there talked to a guy at the guard shack and he indicated we are not permitted to use the Montgomery Creek trail. That, of course, is not true at the moment. I am reading the tea leaves here, but I just don't trust this. Why wasn't there any public discussion on this?
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Re: 282 Acres of Bull Complex at risk!!!!

Postby mtntriathlete » Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:34 pm

I have personally been following this issue for some time now and really see nothing to get alarmed over. My supporting data? The bill itself, the law, and the location of the 282 acres in question.
Land Grab: This is in no way a "Land Grab" or an issue of eminent domain. The Government owns the lands already. The transfer is from departments. DOA to DOD. This is administrative change alone will save millions of taxpayer dollars in the long run. The only true issue here is $. This should really be the major concern here.

Impact to Bull Mountain: Since Camp Merrill is located more than 4.5 miles away from Bull Mountain, I can't see how is this putting Bull Mountain at risk in any way? To claim that it is hype.

Access: Can the Army can deny access to Camp Merrill? Sure they can. They can do that now, and have on occasion based on security concerns (post 9/11 for example). Just like DNR, USFS, etc... can and does close access to its facilities.
As far as Mongomery Creek Access, There are multiple access points to Montgomery Creek Falls (which actually isn't an authorized bike trail, nor is it part of the 282 acres). So I can't see how is this a risk to the public? As far as your friend being told by some guy he couldn't access Montgomery Creek, since I wasn't privy to that conversation I can't say for sure what was said. I would assume however that he was probably referring to the USFS Timber sales going where access to that area is not recommended because of the logging trucks, operations, etc.... (personally I see this is a bigger concern, but.......whatever).
My opinion....
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