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By Ann Bond
Special to The SUN
Ownership of four parcels in Archuleta County involved in the Laughlin Park Land Exchange changed as of March 29, 2013, when the U.S. Forest Service and Pagosa resident Tom Smith closed on the parcels.
A U.S. Forest Service Decision Notice authorized the exchange of two parcels of National Forest System lands for two privately owned parcels in September, 2012.
The two former private inholdings are now part of the San Juan National Forest: 62-acre Laughlin Park, located approximately six miles northeast of Pagosa Springs, and 160-acre Spiler Canyon, located approximately 11 miles southeast of Pagosa Springs. All mineral estates that were owned by the private land owner have been conveyed to the United States. The public can use the newly-acquired lands immediately. Public uses will be the same as those allowed on adjacent National Forest lands. Motorized use, other than snowmobiles operating over snow, is prohibited. Any “No Trespassing” signs that currently exist will be removed as soon as possible.
The former federal parcels, 282-acre Oak Brush Hill and 40-acre Dutton, located approximately six miles northeast of Pagosa Springs, are now private property owned by Tom Smith, and the public may no longer use these areas. The Dutton parcel is surrounded by private lands and the Oak Brush Hill parcel is adjacent to private land and a former USFS Job Corps administrative site and horse pastures. The Job Corp site and horse pastures remain in federal ownership. Smith has agreed to construct fencing along the entire length of the boundary between his new private property and the remaining federal property at Oak Brush Hill by July 1, 2013.
The land exchange consolidates ownership patterns, which will reduce the cost of federal management and increase management efficiency, prevent potential development on inholdings within forest boundaries and impacts on national forest lands in the future, and acquire wetlands, streams, riparian areas and wildlife habitat to enhance resource management on adjacent national forest system lands.
The exchange was completed under authority of the General Exchange Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act and Federal Land Exchange Facilitation Act. For more information, contact the Pagosa Ranger District at 264-2268.