Much of Upper Table Rock may go to BLM

An 813-acre swath of one of Jackson County's most distinctive landmarks — Upper Table Rock — could be sold to the federal government for about $2 million by The Nature Conservancy.

If sold, the land deal would mean that most of the plateau of Upper Table Rock belongs to the Bureau of Land Management.

Stephen Anderson, spokesman for the conservancy, said it always has been the goal of his organization to sell off the land to the federal government or some other agency.

The Nature Conservancy purchased 1,700 acres of Upper Table Rock and its flanks in 2009 for $3.9 million, paid for through grants and loans. The BLM purchase would help pay off the conservancy's loans.

"Our objective was to get at least part of this land into public ownership, either through the BLM or some other group," he said.

The conservancy has applied for federal conservation grants from offshore oil and gas lease revenues that would provide the purchase amount.

Anderson said a fair-market appraisal of the 813 acres will be conducted before it is purchased by the federal government.

To get the grant, the Jackson County

Commissioners and other local agencies are preparing letters of

support for the exchange of ownership.

Commissioner C.W. Smith said the county agreed to the sale provided access to the Table Rocks remains the same.

For the general public, the change of ownership shouldn't change the experience of visiting the horseshoe-shaped Upper Table Rock. BLM already owns part of the eastern flanks and the northern portion of the plateau.

The BLM also owns some land on the eastern leg of Lower Table Rock, although The Nature Conservancy owns most of the remaining property.

The Conservancy first bought land on the Table Rocks 30 years ago and owns land or conservation easements totaling 3,591 acres. BLM has 1,280 acres.

The 2009 acquisition included about two-thirds of Upper Table Rock — equaling about one square mile — along with about half a square mile on the northeast slope. The slope has an oak savannah and concrete bunkers used by soldiers training at Camp White during World War II. The purchase also includes a smaller parcel on the east flank of Lower Table Rock.

Jim Whittington, a spokesman for BLM, said his agency will be preparing a management plan for the Table Rocks that will incorporate joint ownership of the local landmark.

Part of the management will be an exchange of resources between BLM and The Nature Conservancy, such as prescribed burns.

"We will be able to look at the Table Rocks in a more holistic manner," Whittington said.

He said it's difficult to predict when the federal grant money would become available for the purchase.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

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