(PRESS RELEASE/Colville National Forest)
Deal would initiate an equal value exchange of approximately 60,000 acres of land currently owned by Stimson for approximately 30,000 acres of lands currently managed by the Colville National Forest…
The Colville National Forest and Stimson Lumber Company are pursuing a land exchange involving approximately 90,000 acres. The potential exchange was initiated when Stimson approached the Forest Service with a proposal to consolidate the relatively fragmented landscape of ownership and management in Northeast Washington.
Stimson currently owns several thousand acres of inholdings within the proclaimed boundaries of the Colville National Forest, Kaniksu National Forest, and Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge in Pend Oreille and Stevens County, Washington. The parties developed an agreement to initiate an equal value exchange of approximately 60,000 acres of land currently owned by Stimson for approximately 30,000 acres of lands currently managed by the Colville National Forest. Although the bulk of the lands acquired from the proposed exchange would be on the Colville National Forest, the United States would also acquire inholdings on the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge and within the boundaries of lands managed by the Idaho Panhandle National Forest in Washington State.
Over the last couple of months, notices of the exchange proposal were published in local newspapers and sent to permit holders and others who may be potentially impacted by the exchange. “As we seek to ensure this proposal provides the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run, we are pleased by the responses we’re receiving from permit holders, landowners, and the public,” said Forest Supervisor, Rodney Smoldon. “The input indicates broad support and have highlighted specific concerns from permit holders and others who we will work with to mitigate potential impacts.”
Most of Stimson’s acreage involved in this potential land exchange is part of the checkerboard pattern of ownership granted to Burlington Northern Railroad during the railroad land grants of the mid-1800s. The remaining acreage consists of inholdings acquired by Stimson and their predecessors. This fragmented ownership presents several unique management challenges, along with a continuing need to maintain or develop property lines and cooperative agreements between Stimson and adjoining landowners. For these reasons, along with the potential to consolidate timber and land resources, Stimson proposed an exchange with the United States which would mutually benefit the resource management objectives of both parties and provide economic stability to nearby communities that rely on sustainable forest industries.
Lands acquired by the United States through this exchange would include culturally significant properties as well as habitats for important wildlife and fish species. By creating connected and contiguous areas of public land, the exchange could create enhanced opportunities for recreation, forest restoration, management of natural and cultural resources, as well as fire preparedness, suppression, and protection. Consolidated ownership of land would provide better opportunities to manage property boundaries leading to less public confusion. While potentially impacting some recreation uses on the southern end of Colville National Forest, it would also improve user access to substantial portions of the forest. Seamless landscape-level management could also lead to enhanced habitat management in key watersheds and critical habitats for threatened species including Canada lynx, grizzly bear, and bull trout.
The Forest Service is currently developing the land exchange proposal and performing initial review for feasibility. This is the first stage of a lengthy process which could lead to the title transfer of lands. If the Forest Service determines that this exchange is in the public interest and this potential land exchange is approved, we anticipate title transfer to occur in the Summer of 2023. This project will also be analyzed under the National Environmental Policy Act. There will be additional opportunity to formally comment on this project when we initiate scoping later this year.
Information on the land exchange, including a map of the lands involved, is posted under Developing Proposals on the Land and Resource Management/Projects portion of the Colville National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/projects/colville/landmanagement/projects. For additional information about the Colville National Forest, please visit our website at www.fs.usda.gov/colville. For the most current updates about the Colville National Forest, please follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/colvillenf/ and Twitter at www.twitter.com/Colville_NF.