Trump signs Mt. Hood land swap legislation

President Donald Trump, AP photo.

President Donald Trump on Jan. 10 signed a bill that sets out areas for new commercial development and protected forest land on Mount Hood.

The legislation seeks to resolve an eight-year-old conflict over development on the mountain.

The bi-partisan bill headed to Trump’s desk in December after it cleared the House and Senate with little opposition.

A group of lawmakers from Oregon supported the measure, including U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Greg Walden, (R-Ore.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

The “Mt. Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act” directs the U.S. Forest Service to complete a land exchange, addresses disagreements over a conservation easement, and allows for a more transparent appraisal process, according to its proponents in Congress.

The Act allows development of about 100 acres near Government Camp while protecting more than 700 acres on the north side — including acreage within Hood River County — as forest land. Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort has advocated for developing the south side for years.

Heather Staten, Hood River Valley Residents Committee executive director — who represents a land use group that pushed for the land exchange’s completion — explained this winter that the next action will be for the Forest Service and Mt. Hood Meadows to agree on details about the exchange, and equalize land values.

A federal bill in 2009 declared that the land exchange should be carried out in 16 months, but to this date hasn’t been finished. HRVRC took the Forest Service to task with a lawsuit due to the delay.

Forest Service officials have taken steps in recent years toward carrying out the exchange, releasing a scoping letter and project overview.

The Mount Hood exchange bill amends the federal Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 — which called for the exchange in the first place — and revises its details.

In the House, the bill was titled H.R.699, while its companion legislation in the Senate was called S.225. Trump then signed the Act into law.

“After the final appraised value of the federal and nonfederal lands is determined and approved by Department of Agriculture (USDA), the USDA shall not be required to reappraise or update that value for a period of up to three years, unless the condition of any of the lands is significantly and substantially altered by fire, windstorm, or other events,” the bills states.

The bill revises conditions related to wetland and trail easements, and the process for equalization of values of the exchange properties.

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