BLM nearing completion of land swap

The federal Bureau of Land Management is nearing the completion of a land swap involving 7,300 acres that a mining company owns in Mohave and Pinal counties.

The BLM published a notice of its decision in favor of the proposed Ray Land Exchange May 15, and the public has until June 28 to comment on the matter, according to Shela McFarlin, project manager with the Arizona State Office of the BLM in Phoenix.

She said that she does not expect the transfer to be finalized until some time this summer.

The BLM's state director, Denise Meridith, in turn will review any public comments and decide whether to approve the swap, OK an amended version of it or reject it, McFarlin said.

The review period will take a few weeks.

If Meridith rules in favor of the exchange, the public has the right to appeal through the Interior Board of Land Appeals in Washington, D.C., McFarlin said.

"It has taken a long time to do the land exchange," McFarlin said.

"There was a planned amendment that had to be done and there were issues that had to be worked through."

The proposed swap, in the works since 1994, involves trading 6,900 acres of undeveloped land in Mohave County (and the remainder in Pinal County) for 10,976 acres of public lands or mineral estate administered by the BLM in Pinal and Gila counties

The Mohave County Public Land Use Committee, which advises the county supervisors, has only one concern about the land swap, and that is the loss of tax revenues to the county, said Bryan Corbin, an outdoor recreation enthusiast who serves on the panel.

"That was our concern," Corbin said.

"I can't call it major.

The tax base on that bare land was not much."

Asarco paid Mohave County only $2,200 in 1998 in property taxes for its inholdings in the county, McFarlin said.

By contrast, the budget for the current fiscal year in Mohave County projects $27.7 million from property taxes.

"It is classified as range land for purposes of taxes, which is small," McFarlin said.

She added the environmental impact study on the land swap, completed in June 1999, analyzed the impact of the swap on property taxes.

While the county will loss some property taxes, residents and visitors here will gain the use of more public lands for hiking, off-road vehicles, rockhounding and other outdoor recreation.

The Asarco lands also include riparian habitat along the Big Sandy River near Wikieup and about 6,800 acres of desert tortoise habitat in the McCracken Mountain southeast of Yucca and in the Black Mountains near the Warm Springs Wilderness Area, according to McFarlin.

The land exchange involves 6,400 acres in the McCracken Mountains; 320 acres near Groom Peak in the Hualapai Mountains; 160 acres within the Mount Tipton Wilderness Area near Dolan Springs; and 120 acres in the Black Mountains next to the Warm Springs wilderness.

Copies of the notice of decision can be obtained by calling McFarlin at (602) 417-9568.