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Forest Service seeking comments on proposed School Trust Lands exchange

Aug 25, 2017 08:20AM ● Published by Editor

Staff Report from the Cook County News Herald - August 25, 2017

The U.S. Forest Service has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the School Trust Land Exchange, in which the Forest Service would acquire approximately 31,000 acres of Minnesota School Trust lands in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). In exchange, the Forest Service would convey federal lands on the Superior National Forest outside the BWCAW. The amount of federal lands conveyed would be equal in value to the acquired lands and would be selected from a pool of federal candidate parcels of up to approximately 39,000 acres.

The Draft EIS describes and analyzes the environmental effects of three alternatives, including a “no action” alternative, a modification of the alternative provided for public scoping in 2015, and an alternative that addresses the issue of differences between Forest Service management policies for national forest lands and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) management policies for School Trust lands. The decision to be made is whether to authorize an exchange and if an exchange is authorized, which lands will be exchanged and under what conditions.

This land exchange is part of a cooperative effort between the state of Minnesota and the Forest Service to transfer ownership, by a combination of exchange and purchase, of a total of approximately 83,000 acres of state-owned School Trust lands located within the boundaries of the BWCAW. The proposed transfer would be mutually beneficial to the state and to the Forest Service in meeting land management objectives.

We are currently inviting public comment on the Draft EIS. Public comments should focus on any interests or concerns a commenter has about the analysis or alternatives documented in the Draft EIS. Comments that meet the requirements of 36 CFR 218.25(a)(3) must be received 60 days from the date of publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register to establish standing for the objection period that will follow release of the Draft Record of Decision. The Notice of Availability is anticipated for publication in the Federal Register on August 11, 2017.

The Draft EIS is available on the Superior National Forest’s website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/Superior/SchoolTrustLandExchange The project website also includes appendices and maps of the lands proposed for exchange. An online mapping interface, ArcGIS Online, which can be used to display resources located on the lands proposed for exchange, is at https://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/Superior/SchoolTrustLandExchange/

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