USFS land sale spurs local criticism | SummitDaily.com
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USFS land sale spurs local criticism

BOB BERWYNsummit daily news

SUMMIT COUNTY – A U.S. Forest Service proposal to fund rural schools by selling chunks of national forest land has not been wildly popular, to say the least. And now it looks like Summit County and the town of Breckenridge will formally go on the record opposing the sale.Public lands activist Currie Craven has been talking about the issue with county commissioners and town council members. He hopes the resolutions will be adopted in time to submit them as formal comments on the sale proposal. He’s also planning to try and get other local towns on board, perhaps signing on to the countywide resolution. “I’m fundamentally opposed to funding the school program with the sale of public lands,” said Craven, who co-founded Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness. “It’s a bad precedent.”The county has decided it values open space in the Lower Blue, Craven said. The parcels proposed for sale could be valuable pieces in future land swaps that could help achieve both local open space goals and Forest Service goals of efficient land management, Craven said.The county’s resolution won’t directly address the trade issue, County Commissioner Bill Wallace said.”We acknowledge that, to manage Forest Service lands, there have to be sales and purchases,” Wallace said. “But we’re opposed to selling land to fund other budgetary items. We may go as far as to say that proceeds from sales of public lands should go toward purchasing other public lands.”Breckenridge is working on a similar resolution, said Councilmember Jim Lamb. “Just from a philosophical standpoint, once you sell the forests, you don’t get them back,” Lamb said, giving Craven credit for effectively lobbying the council.But County Commissioner Tom Long cautioned against a knee-jerk reaction. While he doesn’t support the sale of national forest lands as a stop-gap budget measure, he doesn’t think the county ought to oppose such sales in principal. Local governments may some day find themselves in a position where they themselves might be looking at Forest Service land to fill a municipal need – perhaps for affordable housing, he said. In fact, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments last summer asked Republican Sen. Wayne Allard to help expedite potential sales of federal land parcels in 640-acre chunks adjacent to towns, if the land is needed for municipal purposes. A blanket condemnation of Forest Service land sales could be counter-productive, Long said.”What did never-cut-a-single-tree get us?” Long said, referring to the fierce debates about mountain pine beetles and forest health. “Never-sell-a-single-acre could get us the same result.”The local debate about Forest Service land sales stems from a proposal last month to re-authorize the 2000 Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act by selling about 200,000 acres of land, raising up to $800 million. The idea is to help rural communities that have seen National Forest logging-based revenue drop as timber-cutting dwindles across the country.The proposal has already been tweaked, but originally included 1,240 acres of White River National Forest land, including 280 acres in Summit County. The master list, compiled under a top-down Forest Service directive, is based on previous forest-by-forest land ownership adjustment analysis that designates lands suitable for disposal.In general, most of the lands to be sold are parcels that are completely surrounded by private land or parcels that are difficult to manage because they are surrounded on three sides by private land, according to White River National Forest spokesperson Kristi Ponozzo.One 40-acre sale parcel in the Lower Blue is completely surrounded by the Shadow Mountain Ranch. The 160-acre parcel is a “long, skinny sliver” bordered on three sides by the Lazy Shamrock Ranch. The Forest Service would give local governments and land trusts the first chance to buy any of the parcels. Otherwise, the agency would set a base value for the land under a uniform appraisal process and then sell at auction to the highest bidder.A comment period runs through March 27. For more information on the land sale plan and to comment, go to http://www.fs.fed.us.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.


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