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Forest Service issues decision on Laughlin Park Land Exchange

San Juan National Forest Supervisor Mark Stiles signed a Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on Sept. 5 approving the Laughlin Park Land Exchange Final Environmental Assessment (EA).

The decision authorizes the exchange of two parcels of National Forest System lands for two parcels of privately owned lands in Archuleta County.

Both federally acquired parcels are completely surrounded by public lands: the 62-acre Laughlin Park parcel is located approximately six miles northeast of Pagosa Springs, the 160-acre Spiler Canyon parcel is located approximately 11 miles southeast of Pagosa Springs.

The 40-acre Dutton Federal parcel exchanged into private ownership is surrounded by private lands with no legal public access. The 282-acre Oak Brush Hill Federal parcel exchanged into private ownership is adjacent to private land and a former USFS Job Corps administrative site and horse pastures. The Job Corp site and horse pastures will be retained in federal ownership.  Both the Dutton and Oak Brush Hill Federal parcels are located approximately six miles northwest of Pagosa Springs.

The Oak Brush Hill parcel will be conveyed subject to an existing Archuleta County Easement for Piedra Road. The proponent, Tom Smith, will be required to provide a right of way for an existing water line to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District. All mineral estates under the Laughlin Park and Spiler Canyon parcels that are owned by the proponent, Tom Smith, will be transferred to the United States under the proposed land exchange.

The exchange will consolidate ownership patterns to reduce the cost of federal management and increase management efficiency, acquire inholdings within Forest boundaries to prevent their potential development and impact on National Forest lands in the future, and acquire wetlands, streams, riparian areas and wildlife habitat to enhance resource management on adjacent National Forest lands.

Values were established by appraisals prepared in accordance with U.S. Forest Service regulations, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions and Forest Service policy.  A fee appraiser prepared the appraisals under instructions and oversight of a Forest Service review appraiser, and the appraisals were approved by the Forest Service for use in this exchange. The exchange was completed under authority of the General Exchange Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act and Federal Land Exchange Facilitation Act.

Copies of the Environmental Assessment, Decision Notice/FONSI and maps of the involved parcels are available from the Pagosa Ranger District, 180 Pagosa St., Pagosa Springs CO, 81147, 264-2268 or online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/sanjuan/projects.

This decision is subject to appeal.  To be eligible to appeal this decision, an individual or group must have provided a comment or otherwise expressed interest in this project during the formal comment period.

This story was posted on September 24, 2012.