- Associated Press - Saturday, August 26, 2017

PETERSBURG, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska Mental Health Trust and the federal government have a bunch of work that needs to be done before a land swap approved last year can happen- work that has to be completed within the next two years.

The approved legislation has a two-year deadline for completing surveys, appraisals and other studies of the land, KFSK-FM reported (https://bit.ly/2xBHwLm ) Thursday.

“All that has to be taken care of before we can exchange the land,” said Wyn Menefee, the mental health trust land office’s deputy director. “The first phase gets completed within one year of passage of the federal bill and the second phase gets done in two years. So there’s a compressed amount of time with a lot to do and so we’re very busy at it.”

The federal government is giving the mental health trust about 31 square miles (81 square kilometers) of the Tongass National Forest near Ketchikan on Prince of Wales Island, while the trust is giving the government about 28 square miles (72.5 square kilometers) of land on Kuiu Island. The swap could change, however, if the appraisal process deems the land to not be worth equal amounts.

The earliest a land swap could happen is at the end of the first phase, which is May 2018. That swap would include two trust land parcels totaling more than 3.9 square miles (10.1 square kilometers) on Signal Mountain and Minerva Mountain near Ketchikan, in exchange for 3.75 square miles (9.7 square kilometers) of Tongass forest land near Naukati on Prince of Wales.

The bulk of the land will change hands in the second phase with a deadline of May 2019.

Menefee said he expects timber sale offerings from the new mental health lands soon after the transfer.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Paul Robbins said that agency will decide what the land they acquire will be used for after hearing public input.


Information from: KFSK-FM, https://www.alaska.net/~kfsk/

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