Land exchange, not purchase
The U.S. Forest Service is pushing ahead with a proposed land exchange to remove state lands from inside the BWCA. As long as an exchange is all that is being considered, we believe this is a step in the right direction.
This is only the first step in this attempt to right a wrong. There is a total of 83,000 acres of school trust land that were taken into the BWCA where they won’t generate a dime for the state’s school trust fund.
The land exchange is for 30,000 acres, leaving 53,000 acres the Forest Service is proposing to purchase instead of exchanging land.
However, word is out that there continues to be opposition to an all-out exchange which we believe is the only option available under federal law. The opposition comes from the Friends of the Boundary Waters with fears of the state logging and mining on the newly acquired land.
As usual the Forest Service is falling in line with the Friends and would like to purchase the remaining 53,000 acres for some $50 million.
This process is going to drag on for some time. The feds are predicting a decision won’t be made until 2017.
What’s important right now is the 1964 Wilderness Act where these issues were directly addressed:
STATE AND PRIVATE LANDS WITHIN WILDERNESS AREAS
SECTION 5. (a) In any case where State-owned or privately owned land is completely surrounded by national forest lands within areas designated by this Act as wilderness, such State or private owners shall be given such rights as may be necessary to assure adequate access to such State-owned or privately owned land by such State or private owner and their successors in interest, or the State-owned land or privately owned land shall be exchanged for federally owned land in the same State of approximately equal value under authorities available to the Secretary of Agriculture.
As we’ve pointed out before, the only way this can be done fairly and in accordance with federal law is through an exchange of land. Any consideration of a purchase should be dismissed without any further consideration.
The Forest Service now claims they don’t have to follow the 1964 Wilderness Act in this case and can purchase lands under a different law. And their lawyers told them this would be legal. Sorry, we don’t believe the Forest Service and we certainly don’t believe their lawyers.
A one-time infusion of money is a far cry from being able to generate income for the school trust fund for time eternal. Don’t look at a one-time handout and sell future generations down the road.
Proceeding with an exchange of 30,000 acres is a step in the right direction. Selling 53,000 acres of our children’s future for a one-time check makes no sense.