U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
California

News.bytes News.bytes Extra, issue 221

ISSUE UPDATE: AREA 51/VICTORIA DRIVE (SALMON CREEK RESOURCES)

SUMMARY:

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been considering a land exchange proposal from Salmon Creek Resources, Inc. that would trade about 566 acres of private land in the Grass Valley Creek watershed in Trinity County, California for about 215 acres of public lands west of Redding, California. The subject public lands are identified for disposal from public ownership in the BLM’s 1993 Redding Resource Management Plan (RMP). There is some neighborhood opposition to the proposed exchange of public lands. The Grass Valley Creek watershed lands are important for continued protection of watersheds that drain into the Trinity River.

ISSUES:

The approved appraisal from the Department's Appraisal Services Directorate has been issued and concludes the exhange values are within the equalization range. BLM's Redding Field Office is finalizing the Environmental Assessment and Decision Record for issuance in the next few weeks. When completed, a notice of availability will be published, starting a 45-day public protest period.

The BLM’s 1993 RMP directs the agency to consolidate public land holdings with high public interest and resources values, and to dispose of isolated parcels that are difficult to manage. As such, the BLM has proposed trading the public land on the west outskirts of Redding (locals refer to the land as "Area 51") as directed in its 1993 RMP. The exchange involves trading a public parcel, surrounded by homes, for a 566-acre private parcel surrounded by public lands in the Grass Valley Creek Watershed.

The BLM and partner agencies are working to stabilize hillsides to reduce sedimentation into the Trinity River, an important fishery that has suffered declines. The watershed has special status under the 1984 federal Trinity River Basin Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, which requires actions to protect and restore the river and its associated habitats. The Redding-area public parcel has limited fisheries values, and poses management difficulties including fire protection and private land trespass issues. Exchange opponents say the land provides space for public recreation including bicycling, hiking and horseback riding. Opponents to the exchange spoke at a two meetings of the BLM's Northwest California Resource Advisory Council (RAC), saying that the Area 51 parcel should remain in public ownership. About 100 letters have been received on the proposal. At its meeting in February 2005, the RAC took no formal position on the exchange proposal, but did endorse the BLM’s Redding Field Office land tenure program as defined in the RMP. RAC members encouraged the BLM to work with land exchange interests to determine ways to protect the Salt Creek corridor (Area 51). The California Department of Fish and Game initially opposed the exchange, but reversed its position, citing the critical importance of the Grass Valley Creek parcels in the ongoing conservation efforts affecting Trinity River fisheries.

STATUS:
The BLM will make a decision soon on the exchange proposal.

3/7/06

News.bytes, issue 221