The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to swap federal land on Douglas Island for private land in south Hood Bay on Admiralty Island.
Alaska Regional Forester Denny Bschor approved the exchange earlier this month, allowing the agency to trade 220 acres of national forest land near the Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau for about 100 acres of private land on Admiralty owned by the heirs of the Jimmy George estate.
The decision will give the Angoon family means to develop guest cabins for about 30 people, a restaurant and homes in a secluded setting near Eaglecrest. It also will allow the Forest Service to acquire an inholding within the Admiralty Island National Monument to be managed as wilderness, according to the agency's decision.
"In any land exchange there are tradeoffs," Bschor's decision said. "In this case, the lands obtained for public ownership on Admiralty Island will provide greater long-term public benefit when weighed against the public lands exchanged."
The Douglas Island property is about three miles up Fish Creek Road. The trade excludes a state Department of Transportation right-of-way 50 feet to either side of the center of Fish Creek Road. It includes an easement to protect public access to the Treadwell Ditch Trail on Douglas, according to the decision.
The Forest Service will pay the family $73,000 to make the trade even. The federal land at Eaglecrest is valued at $507,000, compared to the $580,000-value of the Admiralty Island property, according to the Forest Service.
Gabriel George, spokesman for the George family of Angoon, applauded the decision. The family plans to use the land near Eaglecrest to cater to tourists in a natural, wooded setting, he said.
What's being swapped
A 220-acre national forest parcel on Douglas Island up Fish Creek Road near the Eaglecrest Ski Area for:
About 100 acres owned by the George family of Angoon. The property is at the south arm of Hood Bay and is surrounded by Admiralty Island National Monument and Kootznoowoo Wilderness.
"We're happy - there's nothing to be unhappy about it," he said. "We hope everything goes smoothly. We want to be good neighbors and we hope our neighbors are good to us, too."
The family has no plans to clearcut the area, he said.
"Most of the ... concerns were over the trees and logging," he said. "That's something we have a concern about, too."
The Forest Service and the George family have been working on the swap for seven years, and the agency received 21 comments after releasing an environmental assessment in early 2001. Commenters generally supported a move to acquire the land in Hood Bay, but didn't want to give up the land on Douglas, according to the Forest Service.
Concerns centered on logging and development, a loss of land for berry-picking and hunting on the Juneau road system, and traffic safety, according to comments filed with the agency. The city of Juneau expressed concern about whether local laws and regulations would be enforceable on the Native allotment.
The BIA is charged with oversight of Native allotments, and the city will regulate traffic and penal codes, health, sanitation and building codes, according to the Forest Service. City representatives couldn't be reached for comment by the Empire's midday deadline.
The decision doesn't include restrictions on development or timber harvest on Douglas as a condition of the swap, as some members of the public requested. Such restrictions would be beyond the Forest Service's scope of responsibility, Bschor's decision said.
"The main reason is that doing so would not meet the agency's policy for when to apply restrictions, and I also do not think they are necessary to protect resources or uses along Fish Creek Road," he wrote.
The Hood Bay property contains brown bear habitat, a salmon stream and old-growth trees, the decision said.
The land exchange is subject to a 45-day appeal period.
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