JOHN DAY - The Malheur and Umatilla national forests are hosting information-sharing open houses regarding the proposed Blue Mountain Land Exchange.

The Malheur open house will be held Wednesday, April 9, 1:30-2:30 p.m. at the forest supervisor's office at 431 Patterson Bridge Rd., John Day. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend. The Forest Service also will brief the Grant County Court at 11:30 a.m. on April 9.

The Umatilla open house will be held 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, April 10, at the Umatilla National Forest Supervisor's Office, 2517 S.W. Hailey Ave., in Pendleton. A short informational presentation will be made at 7 p.m., followed by questions and answers. Forest Service staff will remain until 9 p.m. for additional conversation.

The Forest Service is beginning to consider an exchange of lands whereby non-federal inholdings - private lands located within Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman national forest boundaries - would become national forest system lands and move the national forests toward land ownership patterns identified in their forest plans.

"The proposal involves lands within Umatilla, Grant, Morrow, Wheeler, Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties and considers the exchange of approximately 20,600 acres of federal lands in the three National Forests for approximately 37,000 acres of non-federal lands," said Jean Lavell, Blue Mountain Land Exchange coordinator. "The exchange will be completed on the basis of equal values, not equal acres, as determined by real estate appraisal."

The proposed exchange responds to a Forest Service objective of consolidating federal land ownership patterns in the three national forests.

Additionally, consolidation would facilitate public access to federal lands, decrease the complexity of maintaining property boundaries, reduce the number of access permits to private in-holdings, and improve the efficiency of resource management by focusing the forests' funding and staff on consolidated ownerships.

The exchange proposal also addresses goals and objectives of numerous landowners of the private lands to be considered for acquisition by the Forest Service. Clearwater Land Exchange-Oregon, a third party facilitator, has been working for several years to draft a proposal that meets both the Forest Service and private land management objectives. All private landowners are willing partners in the transaction.

A legal description of the lands to be considered can be accessed at www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w/planning.htm. For more information about the open houses, contact Joani Bosworth at the Umatilla at (541) 278-3716 or the Malheur at 575-3000.

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