Fed-Private Land Exchange Called Unfair


     PHOENIX (CN) -The U.S. Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to analyze the environmental impacts of a land exchange that would allow development of hundreds of home on 337 acres on the Black River in Northern Arizona, two environmental groups claim in Federal Court.




     The Greer Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity the Forest Service also violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by failing to establish that the land exchange is in the public interest and that the exchanged acres are of equal value.
     If permitted, the Black River Land Exchange could bring 258 home sites to the land in question. The exchange would swap 337 federal acres for 396 acres of private land in Apache and Greenlee counties.
     The groups claim the Forest Service ignored appeals from the plaintiffs and hydrologists involving the hydrological impacts of the exchange and the development; and that it failed to “characterize baseline aquifer conditions and incorrectly assumed that septic systems would recharge aquifers,” when in fact all development in the area would be required to hook up to the Little Colorado Sanitation System.
     The Forest Service also failed to assess the hydrological impact of the exchange on endangered species, such the Mexican spotted owl, the groups claim.
     They also say that the value of the federal properties to be exchanged far exceeds the value of the nonfederal properties, which were appraised in April 2006.
     The Forest Service tried to make the land exchange in 2007, but a federal judge refused after the two groups challenged it.
     Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the land exchange until the Forest Service has complied with the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
     Plaintiffs are represented by Joy E. Herr-Cardillo and Timothy M. Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.
     The Black River is a scenic river in northeast Arizona that is renowned for trout fishing.

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