Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
November 13, 2012
SHERIDAN -- It's back to the drawing board for J.W. Millegan and his proposed equestrian center at the intersection of Highways 22 and 18 in Polk County.
Millegan is mulling his next move after the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) denied his request to modify a conservation easement on the 325-acre property near Sheridan.
He envisions a world class equestrian facility on the land he calls Wallace Bridge, but a wetlands conservation easement would have to be modified to make way for the center.
"I'm looking at all of my options," Millegan said. "They technically say I can't appeal it. My only other option is to sue the federal government. The problem is that will cost me several hundred thousand dollars and take five years."
If Millegan did sue, he would need to craft an argument as to why he should be able to appeal.
A letter from Ron Alvarado, Oregon's state conservationist, said the purpose of the Wetlands Reserve Program is "to restore, protect and enhance wetlands on eligible lands while maximizing wildlife habitat benefits." He said to fulfill those objectives, Congress limits easement modifications.
"After evaluating your request, NRCS has determined that the modification request does not meet the statutory regulatory requirements, and is therefore denied," the letter stated.
Millegan said the NRCS didn't give the 80-page request thorough consideration before rejecting it in late October.
"These guys didn't even read the report," Millegan said, noting his request included adding more valuable land. "If they are offered something better, why would they reject it?"
The agency stated the result would be less habitat for the threatened Nelson's checker-mallow and endangered Willamette daisy.
Millegan insists that, in fact, more suitable habitat would be added.
Millegan said he could reconfigure the center's layout to avoid the easement, but that would be worse for the environment. He said it's possible he could abandon the project.
"There is a very good chance you will see a `for sale' sign out here," he said. "I've got time. I'm still going to do it. The question is where."