The Kingman office of the federal Bureau of Land Management has reduced the acreage of federal land for a proposed land swap because the land is worth more than private land the BLM is seeking north of Wikieup.
The BLM reduced the acreage total from 17,000 to 15,000 acres based on an appraisal by its Phoenix staff that the land is worth more overall than 18,000 acres in the Cane Springs area owned by Legend Land, BLM project manager Don McClure said.
He said any land exchanges involving federal land administered by the BLM and private property must be equal in value.
"What we have to do is adjust the package to get it to be equal value," McClure said.
An appraisal conducted by the BLM valued the Cane Springs land at about $1.8 million, at $100 per acre.
The appraiser valued about 14,944 acres of BLM land in northern Golden Valley at more than $1.8 million, or $125 an acre, and 2,561 acres in western Golden Valley at $960,000, or $375 per acre.
Because the four sections in western Golden Valley are worth more, the BLM removed them from the proposed exchange, McClure said.
The appraisal report stated that the four sections were appraised separately because of their State Route 68 frontage and access, location within a water district and "perhaps better aesthetic amenities along the mountains."
The BLM, which previously negotiated a land swap with Legend, conducted an appraisal in June that is final and nonnegotiable, McClure said.
He added the BLM will decide by December whether to approve the exchange.
If the swap is approved, Michael Sawhill, president of Ben Brooks & Associates in Phoenix, will turn around and sell the land for more money, McClure said.
Brooks manages the Cane Springs land for Legend, and usually sells 40-acre parcels.
Sawhill said he understands why the BLM needs to adjust the acreage.
"We knew that going in," Sawhill said.
He added Legend asked for more land in the swap in Golden Valley at first because any exchange would need to exclude land that contains "cultural resources" such as historic sites.
If the swap goes through, Legend would sell parcels for future residential development, according to Sawhill.
"We aren't home builders at all," Sawhill said.
"We're land sellers."
The Golden Valley land, located north of State Route 68 and west of U.S.
93, contains little value in terms of wildlife and plant diversity, but it has potential value for future residential development, McClure said.
"It is flat land that we are exchanging: Mojave Desert scrub land," he said.
By contrast, the Cane Springs area is rich in wildlife and is valuable for outdoor recreation such as deer hunting and hiking, according to McClure.
The swap will enable the BLM to protect it from residential development and roads, he added.
"This is some of the best mule deer habitat in the area," said Anita Waite, who grazes cattle on about 70,000 acres in the Cane Springs area and actively supports the land swap.
"It is also some of the best Sonoran (Desert) grassland."
Waite said she would be able to continue ranching if the swap goes through, and expressed concerns about potential harmful effects of residential development if the exchange does not proceed.
She added cutting roads could harm the watershed by increasing sedimentation and watershed.
The proposed exchange drew about 20 letters in a public comment period that ended July 14, and most of those letters supported the exchange, McClure said.