ANCHORAGE, Alaska, (January 4, 2019) Following more than a decade of planning and public input, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (Trust) has approved a major land exchange with the United States Forest Service (USFS) in Southeast Alaska. The exchange, authorized by both state and federal legislation, includes approximately 18,258 acres of Trust lands for approximately 20,528 acres of USFS lands. The exact size and location of the parcels exchanged will be equalized based upon appraised value.

The first phase of the exchange, which the Trust finalized with board approval on January 3, 2019, includes conveyances of about 2,500 acres of Trust lands around Ketchikan for about 2,400 acres of USFS lands near Naukati, on Prince of Wales Island. These parcels are not equal in value, but equalization of land values occurs in Phase 2. Conveyance of the Phase 1 parcels allows the Trust’s timber contract with Viking Lumber to proceed with harvest on the Naukati parcel in 2019.

This exchange ensures that Trust can monetize its lands and timber resources providing the greatest return for its beneficiaries, provides timber resources to the Southeast timber industry, and reduces conflicts with Southeast communities who sought to preserve viewsheds and other interests by shielding nearby lands from timber harvest. The federal Alaska Mental Health Exchange Act of 2017 and its complimentary State of Alaska legislation were the result of collaboration between the Trust, USFS, the timber industry, environmental and conservation organizations, Southeast communities, State of Alaska, and other concerned stakeholders.

“I want to thank all of those who worked so hard to address stakeholder concerns and make this exchange happen,” said Mike Abbott, CEO of the Trust. “Our overarching mission is to provide financial support for mental health resources for to those who need it most, our beneficiaries. This land exchange will provide a return to the Trust that will help fund beneficiary programs and initiatives for years to come.”

Surveys, appraisals, reviews for hazardous materials, threatened and endangered species, cultural and historic resources, and wetlands were completed as a part of the exchange. The Trust will continue to work diligently with the USFS to complete the significant work necessary to complete for Phase 2.