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Comment period extended for proposed Laughlin Land Exchange

The San Juan Public Lands Pagosa Ranger District has extended the deadline for the public comment period for the Laughlin Park Land Exchange. To compensate for the holiday break, written comments will now be accepted until close of business on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011.

The land exchange involves a proposal by Thomas Smith to convey to the U.S. Forest Service two parcels of private property within the boundaries of the San Juan National Forest. The private parcels, Laughlin Park and Spiler Canyon, total 222.5 acres. In exchange, Mr. Smith would acquire a 339-acre parcel of National Forest surrounded by private property at Oak Brush Hill.

The proposed federal exchange parcel is adjacent to the Forest Service Job Corps site, which is not part of the proposal. Smith has submitted to the Forest Service a conceptual development plan for the Oak Brush Hill parcel, which calls for 35-acre home sites and construction of an access road from the Piedra Road. The Oak Brush Hill parcel also adjoins Smith’s Dutton Creek Ranch, for which he has also submitted a preliminary development plan for property to Archuleta County for preliminary review.

The private parcels offered to the Forest Service in the exchange proposal, Laughlin Park and Spiler Canyon, are currently owned by Smith. Both are surrounded by the San Juan National Forest in undeveloped portions of Archuleta County. Public acquisition of these parcels would result in the protection of important wildlife habitat, wetlands, improved management efficiencies, and other desirable natural features.

Exchanges are completed on an equal-value basis, as determined by appraisals reviewed and approved by the Forest Service. If the values are not equal, the federal property can be reduced in acreage, and/or a cash equalization payment of up to 25 percent of the value of the Federal lands may be made.

Written comments should be addressed to: Forest Supervisor, San Juan National Forest, c/o Cindy Hockelberg, P.O. Box 439, Bayfield, CO 81122. Electronic comments may be submitted via e-mail to sbrinton@fs.fed.us.

For more information, call the Pagosa Ranger District at 264-2268.