The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Forest service explores Ontonagon property acquisition


March 8, 2019


Ironwood — The U.S. Forest Service’s Ottawa National Forest is pursuing a land adjustment in Ontonagon County, which will convert a little more than 219 acres of land from private into public use.

Lisa Klaus, public relations officer for the forest service, said the land on the west side of the Victoria Lake reservoir meets the park’s goals.

“What we always look for when we are acquiring land is we’re provide recreation opportunities and protecting wildlife,” she said.

Using a Tripartite Exchange — or otherwise known as a Land for Timber Exchange — Klaus said the landowner, the National Forest Timber Sale Program, and the contractor harvesting the timber enter into an agreement to make the acquisition possible.

Ottawa National Forest Supervisor Linda Jackson recently informed the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners about where the land adjustment projects are as the Ottawa National Forest extends into Gogebic County.

Her notice indicated the 219.39 acres in Rockland Township owned Joseph and Mary Hovel is located within the proclamation boundary of the forest and revenue received on timber sales from Ontonagon, Gogebic and Iron counties may be used in the tripartite exchange.

The impact to counties will be approximately $7,000 a year, which may be offset by the recently reauthorized Secure Rural Schools program, Klaus said.

Klaus acknowledged there is always a concern when the federal government acquires land because it removes the property from the tax base. With the SRS Act and a percentage of the sales of timber on federal lands going to counties, she said the advantage of a tripartite exchange is the forest will be able to acquire land without using appropriated funds.

The land will also increase timber harvests which will increase revenue to the counties, she said.

“Our counties watch that closely,” she added.

She said the having the act in place helps minimize the effect on the counties and the land acquisition has “multiple benefits to the local community and its economy.” These include the property’s proximity to the West Branch of the Ontonagon River, as she said opening areas around water to the public helps promote tourism in the region.

“The acquisition falls into a long term plan that the forest has for designated Wild and Scenic Rivers,” Klaus said.

The land adjustment is being considered for the 2020 fiscal year, according to Klaus.

Notices were mailed to all three counties and the local tribe, she said, and future public meetings are planned to keep community members informed about the forest’s plans.

Prior to the notifications, she said park rangers also attended meetings to talk with townships and community members.

“This is kind of making sure that everybody understands what’s going and how we’ll be moving forward,” she said.


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