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Comment Period For Swan Forest Initiative Ends Thursday

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, MT.

There’s a deadline for public comments coming up on a proposal to have the state take over management of a section of National Forest land. The comment period ends Thursday.

The Lake County Conservation District wants the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to manage a 60,000-acre swath of the Flathead National Forest, and use timber sales on it to help fund local conservation efforts.

The District has been studying and refining this plan for the past six years. They’re wrapping up a public comment period this Thursday.

Jim Simpson is the district’s board chairman. He says the board has received about 1,200 comments so far.

"It's a wide range. What we are seeing is that there is a theme, almost a carbon copy theme from comments that are coming in, and we suspect there may be one or two people coordinating those comments and those responses."

A map of lands in the Swan Forest Initiative
Credit Lake County Conservation District
A map of lands in the Swan Forest Initiative.

Of the 1,200 comments received, less than 400 are from people living in Lake County or the Swan Valley. Simpson says the local comments split roughly 50-50 in favor and opposed to the so-called Swan Forest Initiative.

Proponents say the proposal would address the district’s chronic lack of funding by funneling revenue from timber sales into state mandated soil and water projects.

Opponents argue the proposal is a thinly veiled attempt to transfer federal public lands to the state or private interests. Simpson says that it not the case.

"Familiarize yourself with the concept, and then email us your opinion. Should we go forward or should we stop?"

Moving forward would require Congress to enact legislation outlining the terms of the proposed management transfer. The Lake County Conservation District’s Board is accepting comments through Thursday and will vote on September 14 whether to contact members of Montana’s Washington delegation or lay the proposal to rest.

Find more information about the Swan Forest Initiative, or submit a comment:

swanforestinitiative.org
64352 U.S. Highway 93 Ronan, MT 59864

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