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Montana News

Swan Forest Initiative: Land Grab Or Funding Solution?

People in Swan Lake heard a proposal to transfer management of some National Forest land to the state in a question-and-answer session Dec. 7, 2016, in Swan Lake, MT.
Nicky Ouellet
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People in Swan Lake heard a proposal to transfer management of some National Forest land to the state in a question-and-answer session Dec. 7, 2016, in Swan Lake.

The public comment period on a proposal to transfer management of National Forest land to local control has been extended. The Swan Forest Initiative would transfer management of 60,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for the next 100 years.It’s being proposed by the Lake County Conservation District, which would be the sole beneficiary of revenue made from timber sales. At a press briefing today, project backer Jim Simpson said he’s hoping to receive 2,000 comments from Lake County residents by June.

"At that time we'll be able to as a board decide if we'll stop it, or go to that last step, which is contacting our congressional delegation," says Simpson.

So far, the board has received nearly 150 comments, about half of which are in favor. At a public meeting last December, opponents called the proposal a land grab that raises more questions than it answers. Simpson says it’s a novel model to solve the district’s chronic funding problem.

The plan would need an act of Congress, and potentially legislation at the state level, to make the management transfer official.

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