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Thu, Dec. 05

BLM to discuss 17,000-acre land swap at Cordes Lakes meet<BR>

Public lands in the Mayer area may soon become residential developments if the Bureau of Land Management decides to swap the land for private properties elsewhere in Arizona.

The Cordes Lakes Community Association is hosting an informational public meeting Tuesday, May 14 at 7 p.m. Bureau of Land Management representatives will provide information and discuss a proposed 17,000 acre land swap with a Phoenix-based developer.

The BLM recently received a proposal from Aranda Properties, Inc. to exchange public lands for lands in Aranda's control.

Aranda is proposing to exchange approximately 8,919 acres of private land it controls in exchange for lands to be determined from a pool of approximately 17,000 acres of public land in and around Mayer.

The BLM public lands that would become private are located in the triad formed by highways 69, 169 and Interstate 17.

The private lands that would become BLM public lands are grouped in nine parcels located in Yavapai, Pinal, Pima, Maricopa, Santa Cruz, and Cochise Counties.

In the proposal letter to BLM, Aranda Properties indicated several potential uses for the acquired BLM lands. Initial considerations include selling the land in large parcels for ranching, selling parcels for low-density residential development in 20 to 40 acre ranchettes, donating several parcels to charities, developing some land for use as youth camps; and/or retaining several parcels for personal use.

The proposal also said the offered lands have resource characteristics favorable for acquisition by the BLM.

The BLM would manage any acquired land as part of the public lands system administered by the BLM. Those parcels within national monuments or conservation areas would become part of those monuments or conservation areas.

The proposal letter also said some of the offered lands include sensitive or valuable habitat for riparian plant and animal species, or are within watersheds of important riparian areas. Additionally, the proposal letter said offered lands might include significant cultural or paleontological resources.

The BLM must decide whether or not the proposed exchange is in the best interests of the public. The criteria for determining best interest of the public includes, but is not limited to questions of whether the exchange simplifies land tenure, if the exchange involves the BLM acquisition of valuable riparian habitat or habitat suitable for endangered and/or threatened wildlife species, and if the exchange would increase the opportunity for recreational activities.

The proposal letter states the BLM anticipates several benefits to public lands management from the proposed exchange. These include improved management of national monuments and national conservation areas, improved public access to existing public lands, increased recreation opportunities, improved land management by simplifying land tenure patterns, and acquisition of important riparian resources and special status species habitat into public ownership.

Any proposed land exchange is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA requires federal agencies, such as the BLM, to consider the potential physical, biological, social, and economic effects of their actions. In this case, the agencies are required to give appropriate consideration to the project's environmental amenities and values, make diligent efforts to invite and solicit comments from the interested and affected segments of the public and Write detailed environmental impact statements (EIS) or environmental assessments (EA) that clearly describe the predicted environmental effects of the exchange. NEPA also requires the BLM to write records of any decision that clearly explain the rationale for that decision.

Issues considered in an Environmental Assessment include evaluating the potential impacts of the exchange on an array of natural, cultural, and land use resources, including visual, water; recreational, soils and mineral resources. Also considered in an EA, vegetation and wildlife, noise considerations, air quality and socio-economic issues.

The criterion for the EA study is fine-tuned by public comment.

Public open houses to provide information and to solicit comments on the proposed exchange are scheduled for the following three locations and times:

Cordes Lakes

Tuesday May 14, 2002 at the Cordes Lakes Community Center

16357 Cordes Lakes Drive

5:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Phoenix,

Wednesday, May 15, 2002 at the BLM Phoenix Field Office

21605 North 7th Avenue

5:30 - 8:30 p.m.

For further information on this project, or to submit written comments, contact:

Gene Dahlem, Project Manager

Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix Field Office

21605 North 7th Avenue

Phoenix, Arizona 85027

(623) 58~5525

The BLM will accept all written comments postmarked by June 15, 2002.

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