Land Exchange Update

Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office has obtained state and federal legislation to authorize a land exchange between the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and the USFS. 

This is an equal value land exchange with approximately 20,580 acres of USFS land for 18,313 acres of Trust lands in Southeast Alaska. For a detailed look at the affected parcels, click on Maps on the right hand column of this page. This exchange will make substantial areas of both old growth and young growth timber available for harvest with the potential to earn the Trust $40 – $60 Million over the next 20 years.

The land exchange will help the TLO increase revenue production from Trust-owned land, which supports vital mental health services for Alaskan beneficiaries. The exchange also would protect important viewsheds and watersheds as well as provide timber desperately needed to keep the Southeast timber industry viable. 

The exchange requires both federal and state legislation. 

State Legislation

In the Alaska Legislature, both HB 155 and SB 88 were introduced. SB 88 passed the Senate and gained 11 co-sponsors. The House Finance committee adopted SB 88 language as the bill to move. That bill has passed the House and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Federal Legislation

The President signed into law an Omnibus bill on 5/5/17 that enacted a revised version of S.131, approving the exchange. See S.131 to the right.

Background

The Alaska Mental Health Trust I US Forest Service Land Exchange has been pursued since 2005. A few significant accomplishments to be acknowledged are:  Endorsement of the September 4, 2012 land exchange package, resulting from a collaborative effort facilitated by the Tongass Futures Roundtable;  Signing of the Agreement to Initiate (ATI) for the exchange, on June of 2015;  Introduction of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Exchange Act of 2016 by Senator Murkowski;  Introduction of the land exchange legislation by Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan and Representative Young in January 2017. 

The general maps of the proposal are available by clicking on the link here, Maps. The official federal legislation maps have not been posted on the congressional bills site, meanwhile the maps represent what are referenced in the federal legislation. The exchange will be an appraised value for value land exchange (not based on acreage). The federal exchange process includes environmental and cultural review, title and survey work, public notice and appraisal procedures. All these steps are outlined in Federal Statute.

The proposed exchange referenced in the federal legislation involves approximately 17,341 acres of Trust land surrounding seven Southeast Alaska communities and offers a solution regarding use of these lands that is favorable to the communities, the State of Alaska, the federal government and the Trust.  The legislation identifies 20,580 acres of federal land to be exchanged. The land values will be determined by utilizing standard land appraisal procedures. Based on those values, the final parcels exchanged will be adjusted to equalize the values.

Benefits of the exchange:

  • Preserve old growth timber and viewsheds along the Inside Passage
  • Protect recreational and tourism opportunities near local communities
  • Preserve watersheds adjacent to communities
  • Create opportunity for The Trust to generate revenue to support its mission and serve its beneficiaries

Next Steps

The AMHT Land Exchange as authorized by Congress directs the Forest Service to complete the land exchange in two phases.  Phase 1 involves the conveyance of 2,585 acres of Trust land to the United States near Ketchikan (Parcels K-1 Signal Mountain and K-2 Minerva Mountain) in exchange for 2,400 acres of National Forest known as Naukati Phase 1.  Phase 1 is to be completed within one year of enactment, or by May 2018.  The balance of the exchange, Phase 2, is to be completed within two years of enactment, May 2019.  The Forest Service and the Trust Land Office are working together to meet these requirements .

Within the first 90 days following enactment of the exchange legislation, the Forest Service and the Trust Land Office will accomplish the following steps necessary to complete the exchange:

  • Selection of an appraisal firm mutually agreeable to the Forest Service and the Trust Land Office to appraise the National Forest and Trust lands included in the exchange. 
  • Forest Service preparation and issuance of appraisal instructions.
  • Preparation and issuance of landline survey instructions for all land surveys necessary to complete the exchange.
  • Preparations for completion of required pre-exchange clearances, reviews, mitigation activities and approvals relating to: threatened and endangered species; cultural and historic resources; wetlands and floodplains; and hazardous materials.

Prior to the end of the 2017 field season (September) the Forest Service and the Trust Land Office are planning to complete the following:

  • Appraisal site inspections
  • Fieldwork necessary for land surveys for completion of Phase 1, and as much field work as possible for Phase 2 of the exchange.
  • Site inspections and data collection for the required environmental clearances.

Informational Documents
Updates will be posted below as they become available.

For more information contact Paul Slenkamp, Senior Resource Manager, at 907.225.6618 or paul.slenkamp@alaska.gov.