Thursday, February 09, 2006

Forest Service to Sell Public Land

The U.S. Forest Service plans to raise up to $800 million in much-needed cash by selling off 200,000 acres of land across the country, including three parcels in Summit County.

The proposed land sale would be authorized under a Congressional amendment to the 2,000 Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The law is intended to help rural communities that have seen National Forest logging-based revenue drop as timber cutting dwindled across the country.

The news of the land sale came as a surprise to White River National Forest officials in Glenwood Springs, who said they were still reviewing the proposed measure. The directive came from the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters through the regional office in Denver, where lands specialists identified about 1,240 acres of White River forest land that could be sold to the highest bidder in a competitive sale process.

The list is based in part on land ownership adjustment analyses that designate lands suitable for disposal. Most of the lands to be sold are parcels completely surrounded by private land or difficult to manage because they are surrounded on three sides by private land, according to White River National Forest spokesperson Kristi Ponozzo.

Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton said that holds true for the three parcels in northern Summit County, in the vicinity of Green Mountain Reservoir. Newton said the three parcels are 40, 80 and 160 acres.

Newton said the Dillon District is reviewing the three chunks of land to make sure they meet the criteria for sale, but said they had been previously identified for disposal. Dillon District lands specialist Paul Semmer said the 40-acre parcel 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, while the 80-acre piece is off Acorn Creek Road near a small lot subdivision. Specifics for the sale process and for determining the value of the land haven't been established yet, he said.

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