U.S. Forest Service (FS) contacted the Lone Star Chapter/Houston Regional Group of the
Sierra Club about a proposal by the Sabine River Authority (SRA) to acquire by land
exchange the so-called "strip lands" that border Toledo Bend Reservoir on the
Texas/Louisiana Border within Sabine National Forest (SNF). The "strip lands"
are found between the 172-175 foot contour of the Toledo Bend Reservoir and are federal
land. These lands consist of about 3,650 acres of SNF and include about 300 acres in
Indian Mounds Wilderness Area.
The SRA wants to acquire these lands so the FS will no longer be a legal party to the
renewal of its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permit at any time in the
future for Toledo Bend Reservoir. This desire for no FS participation in its' permit
renewal, which involves among other things reservoir operation, is probably because the
SRA wants to sell huge amounts of water to other areas of Texas, including Houston, via
large canals or pipelines.
The FS asked the Sierra Club if it was willing to discuss this issue to determine if
the land exchange might work. The Sierra Club requested a copy of the SRA's letter and a
description of the proposal. For the Sierra Club to participate in any such discussions
the Sierra Club nationally, not the Lone Star Chapter or Houston Regional Group, would
have to agree to participate because significant federal issues, congressionally
designated wilderness and federal permits, would be involved. An agreement to exchange
these lands would require an act of the U.S. Congress to remove the 300 acres from Indian
Mounds Wilderness Area. This could set a precedent for the National Wilderness System and
encourage other attempts to reduce wilderness acreage around the United States.
The Sierra Club checked back with the FS and found that after reflection the FS decided
not to consider the request by the SRA. For now, SNF and Indian Mounds Wilderness Area are
safe and the FS remains a valuable public participant in the renewal of any permit to
operate the Toledo Bend Reservoir. The Lone Star Chapter and Houston Regional Group will
continue to follow this issue closely.