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…can the current U. S. Forest Service employees knowingly renege on a 1965 finalized land exchange by creating a new set of government documents

To the Editor:

Not so long ago, much of the land within the area known today as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was privately owned.  Resorts flourished, cabins dotted the landscape, while others profited from pulp and lumber sales on land they owned.  A web of established logging roads and railroad beds connected people to their properties and aircraft serviced remote private lands.

But times were changing and by 1925 a new generation of outdoor recreationists began to question how the public might be better served should much of the area be set aside for public recreation.  At stake was how this area should develop.  Additional roads would mean more development and commerce, leading to increased tax revenue, whereas the goal of the outdoor enthusiasts was to remove existing roads from the landscape, ban pontoon aircraft from the airspace, and acquire, erase and burn existing cabins and resorts.  A contentious forty-year battle ensued, pitting neighbor against neighbor, locals against outsiders, legislative actions, court decisions and political power.  Thousands of acres of private property needed to be acquired by the federal government. The result, by 1965, most of the private land had been obtained by the federal government. The BWCA was created.  The fight was over. Not quite yet says the U. S. Forest Service.

Herein the question is raised, after 58 years, can the current U. S. Forest Service employees knowingly renege on a 1965 finalized land exchange by creating a new set of government documents, that would over-ride the original set of signed documents used to finalize a 1965 land exchange; drastically changing (damaging) the original outcome of said land exchange?

At first, private land parcels were easily acquired through tax delinquency actions.  Clearly, landowners not wishing to sell felt government could not force them to do so.  But, after court decisions to close roads and ban aircraft, lack of access curtailed owners from using their land and reduced property value.  Regardless, several owners refused to sell their land within the purposed public footprint area until the U. S. Congress authorized trading nearby federal lands for private footprint lands.

Congress named the U. S. Forest Service to administer and manage the land exchanges and Joseph Perko was one of many to take advantage of this type of real estate transaction.   In this case, by 1961, Mr. Perko had tentatively agreed to trade 91 acres of his land within the yet to be created BWCA for a 3.75 acre federal government parcel, a portion of which was landlocked by federal land; in need of an access road over federal land.   In 1962, three years before the land exchange was finalized, the Forest Service staked the centerline for an access road to the landlocked parcel and the road was built in the fall of that year.  In 1963, the Forest Service approved a cabin being built on the parcel still owned by the federal government, understanding this would seal the deal for the land exchange to proceed smoothly.  A “plat” and words such as, “according to the survey line” were provided on signed government documents verifying the critical location of a section corner monument that served as the N. E. corner of the federal property intended to be conveyed to Perko. Leaving no grain of sand unexamined, the federal government finalized the real estate transaction (land exchange) in 1965.  Later, additional signed Forest Service documents depicted and described the location of the critical section corner, reverifying the “on the ground, on the face of the earth location” of the parcel the federal government intended conveyed to Mr. Perko.  Of special significance is a 1985 signed FS document entitled “Record of Decision”.

But, in 1993, twenty-eight years after the Perko land exchange was finalized, new FS employees brought forth an attempt to change the outcome of the 1965 land exchange by changing a “road permit” into a “road easement” that included a new location for said critical section corner.  The Thomforde family, who in 1965 had purchased the landlocked portion of the parcel from Perko, strongly objected to this change and discussed the implications of recording government documents containing undocumented facts.   Seventeen years later, in 2010, the FS “leaked” a second document, known as the Westlin doc, that also intended to alter the outcome of the 1965 Perko land exchange by changing the location of the crucial “lost” section corner thereby eliminating road access to the Perko/Thomforde parcel.  These two documents are simply known as “the new and different FS 1965 land exchange docs”.   

Space here prohibits exposing why current administrative employees of the Forest Service want to change the outcome of the 1965 Joseph Perko/United States of America land exchange.  I firmly believe no former FS surveyor should ever author a later survey that mirrors that authored earlier in the FS’s “new and different 1965 FS land exchange docs”.  Conflict of interest be damned.  Responsibility as well. Case closed says the Forest Service.  No discussion with politicians.

Make no mistake, according to the FS, the Perko/USA land exchange was not finalized in 1965.  Almost, maybe, but now there are some changes the Forest Service needs/wants to make; like altering the location of the section corner to exclude the access road built exclusively for the land exchange from connecting to the parcel conveyed to Mr. Perko by Congressional action. Clearly, a different outcome from that finalized in 1965.

I did not start this war.  The American people and Congress needs to tell the FS to make good on the original 1965 and later signed documents used to finalize the location of the parcel the United States conveyed to Perko in 1965.

Lawrence Thomforde

Retired High School Biology Teacher

Undoubtedly, the last person alive involved in the 1965 Perko/USA land exchange.

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