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Nonprofit gets land appraisal values from Forest Service

After a long and arduous process, including Freedom of Information Act requests and legal complaints, the U.S. Forest Service has finally released documents that detail appraised values of the public and private lands proposed for trade in the controversial Valle Seco land exchange near Pagosa Springs.

In order to achieve release of the documents, Colorado Wild Public Lands, a nonprofit focused on keeping Colorado public lands open and accessible, argued that the appraisals are paramount to providing fact-based comments and determination of public interest. COWPL asserts that according to federal land exchange laws and the National Environmental Policy Act, Forest Service must be able to demonstrate equal value between the lands being exchanged. The organization maintains that it is the public’s right to know the value of lands we all collectively own; especially when they are at risk of being traded away.

Until now the appraisals have been consistently withheld from the public but shared with the private entities behind the exchange. The appraisals were released on Dec. 22, barely a month before the Forest Service’s Jan. 21 date to issue the Objection Resolution and Final Decision on the exchange. COWPL will be formally requesting that the Forest Service provide an extension period to these actions to allow for public review and comment on the appraisals.

COWPL has sifted through these documents and posted the most recent appraisals on its website. Reach out to COWPL at coloradowildpubliclands@gmail.com for more information.

Graham Ward

Colorado Wild Public Lands