The Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Exchange Act of 2017 was signed into law by the President of the United States on May 7, 2017. This legislation was the result of many years of work by the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Trust Land Office (TLO), Southeast Alaska communities and environmental groups. The land exchange also required State of Alaska legislation which was passed in October 2017 (Senate Bill 88).
This is an equal value land exchange with approximately 20,580 acres of USFS land exchanged for 18,258 acres of Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (AMHTA) lands in Southeast Alaska. For a detailed look at the parcels, click on Maps on the right-hand column of this page. This exchange will make substantial areas of both old growth and young growth timber available for harvest with the potential to earn the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority $40 – $60 million over the next 20 years.
The land exchange will help the Trust Land Office increase revenue production from Trust-owned land, which supports vital mental health services for Alaskan beneficiaries. The exchange is protecting important viewsheds and watersheds around communities, as well as, provide timber desperately needed to keep the Southeast timber industry viable.
The land exchange between the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and the United States Forest Service has been pursued since 2005. A few significant accomplishments to be acknowledged are: Endorsement of the September 4, 2012 land exchange package, resulting from a collaborative effort facilitated by the Tongass Futures Roundtable; Signing of the Agreement to Initiate (ATI) for the exchange, on June of 2015; Introduction of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Exchange Act of 2016 by Senator Murkowski; Introduction of the land exchange legislation by Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan and Representative Young in January 2017.
The land exchange will be value for value based on appraisal (not based on acreage). The federal exchange process includes environmental and cultural review, title, survey, public notice, and standard (USPAP) appraisal procedures. All these steps are outlined in Federal Statute.
The land exchange referenced in the federal legislation involves approximately 18,258 acres of AMHTA land surrounding seven Southeast Alaska communities and offers a solution regarding use of these lands that is favorable to the communities, the State of Alaska, the federal government and the Trust Land Office. The legislation identifies 20,580 acres of federal land to be exchanged. These federal lands were collaboratively identified by the Tongass Futures Roundtable in 2012. The land values will be determined by utilizing standard land appraisal procedures. Based on those values, the final parcels exchanged will be adjusted to equalize the values.
Benefits of the exchange:
- Preserve old growth timber and viewsheds along the Inside Passage
- Protect recreational and tourism opportunities near local communities
- Preserve watersheds adjacent to communities
- Create opportunity for The Trust to generate revenue to support its mission and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Autority and its beneficiaries
The AMHTA Land Exchange as authorized by Congress directs the USFS to complete the land exchange in two phases. Phase 1 was completed in February of 2019 and involved the conveyance of 2,585 acres of AMHTA land to the United States near Ketchikan (Parcels K-1 Signal Mountain and K-2 Minerva Mountain) in exchange for 2,400 acres of National Forest known as Naukati Phase 1. The balance of the exchange, Phase 2, was partially completed in April 2020 with conveyance of an additional 1,530 acres of federal land to the AMHTA in Naukati and an additional 3,020 acres (K-4) of AHMTA land to the United States near Ketchikan. The USFS and the Trust Land Office continue working together to complete the exchange which is expected in late 2020 or early 2021.
Appraisal of the remaining portions of phase 2 will be completed in 2020. Other requirements include completion of required pre-exchange clearances, reviews, mitigation activities and approvals relating to threatened and endangered species, cultural and historic resources, wetlands and floodplains, and hazardous materials.
Wolf Creek Boat Works
The Wolf Creek Boat Works is a parcel of about 7 acres located within the Hollis Parcel which still is wholly owned by the USFS. The complexity of the relationship between the USFS and the previous permit holder (permit expired in 2015) has recently escalated due to the private ownership of the structures at the Wolf Creek Boat Works and the USFS efforts to resolve the trespass before land exchange conveyance. The AMHT is not a party to the legal relationship which currently exists in this case.