Map courtesy of Mount Hood National Forest
LAND EXCHANGE, illustrated by a U.S. Forest Service map, trades properties at Cooper Spur and Government Camp. The Forest Service has released a report detailing environmental impacts of the long-pending project.
How to comment
The Forest Service is seeking comments on the Mount Hood land exchange. A 90-day comment period began on Oct. 28, which opens the door for interested parties to read the agency’s environmental impact statement and weigh in.
By hand-delivery or mail: use the subject line “Government Camp-Cooper Spur Land Exchange” and send to Mt. Hood National Forest, 16400 Champion Way, Sandy, OR 97055.
By fax: 503-668-1423
By email: comments-pacificn...
The Mount Hood National Forest Service has unveiled a draft environmental impact statement concerning a long-stalled Mount Hood land exchange.
The report, released Oct. 28, considers the effects of trading roughly 770 acres of private land in Hood River County owned by Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort in exchange for about 110 acres of forest land in the Zigzag Ranger District in Clackamas County, near Government Camp.
Part of Mount Hood’s northeast slope would become protected wilderness while the southwest side would open up to commercial development by Meadows.
Congress mandated the Government Camp-Cooper Spur land trade in 2009, via the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. The deadline was 16 months. But seven years later, the deal remains unfinished.
Since 2015, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River), have backed legislation in different forms to accelerate the trade. The bills cleared both chambers but haven’t yet been enacted into law.
Wyden said the Forest Service’s environmental impact statement marks a step forward for the trade, in a statement to the Hood River News.
“I am glad the Mount Hood land exchange at last is taking this significant step toward achieving a solution that benefits both Oregon’s environment and economy,” Wyden said.
He called the exchange a “win” for protecting lands and allowing “responsible development.”
“That’s why I worked to pass my bill through the Senate to speed up this long-delayed process, and will continue to pull out all the stops to get this agreement across the finish line,” Wyden said.
In their project summary, the Forest Service agreed with the “underlying need” to exchange the lands. The purpose of their undertaking, they said, was to comply with direction from the Legislature.
Legislation also tasks the Forest Service with creating a nearly 3,000-acre protected area called the Crystal Springs Watershed Special Resources Management Unit, and changing the designation of about 1,700 acres of forest land to wilderness. The water district services parts of Hood River and Odell.
The Forest Service’s impact statement charts out paths the land swap could take: a proposed action (exchanging the properties), a “no-action” alternative, and several varieties on the exchange.
Both parcels are timbered, mostly undeveloped, and separated by 40 acres of private land. Elevations range from about 3,760 to 4,120 feet.
Plans have gauged all sorts of impacts: cultural resources, hydrology, wetlands, water rights, plant and animal life, recreation, scenic visuals, facilities, and socio-economics.
The agency is seeking comments before making a final decision to adopt a plan. A 90-day window has begun for public comments from interested parties (see info box for details).
Debra Proctor, Forest Service project team leader, explained the agency will gather comments, categorize them for analysis by staff, then come up with responses.
“It’s not a voting process, it’s more about gathering information,” Proctor explained. The process will eventually lead to a draft decision, she explained.
As of Thursday, the agency hadn’t received any comments on the draft environmental impact statement. The document is available on the Forest Service website, www.fs.usda.gov/goto/mthood/projects.
Those with questions about the proposal should contact Michelle Lombardo, forest environmental coordinator, at 503-668-1796 or Proctor at 715-580-0412.