The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service published a final rule today that expands the use of the Small Tracts Act—a part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The regulation is part of a broader set of rule changes that the agency is undertaking in support of the Secretary of Agriculture’s direction to increase access to national forests. The rule provides the agency greater flexibility to resolve land management challenges through the sale, exchange or interchange of small land parcels.
“The landowners whose properties border national forests and grasslands are not only our neighbors, they are also key partners in sustaining the vitality of the land we manage,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “These changes will improve the way we work with willing landowners to further the health, productivity and connectivity of national forests and grasslands.”
The rule amends agency regulations to allow use of changes to the Small Tracts Act. Amendments include the authority to sell, exchange, or interchange small parcels of land that are 40 acres or less, and that are physically isolated, inaccessible or lack national forest characteristics. The amendments also grant the Forest Service authority to convey parcels of land that are 10 acres or less where landowners have made permanent, habitable improvements, and where the encroachment was neither intentional nor negligent.
The Forest Service may use proceeds from land exchanges to acquire lands, or interest in lands, in the same state that are suitable to be included in the National Forest System. The proceeds may also be used to reimburse costs associated with the competitive sale of eligible lands and to acquire access to existing National Forest System lands which are currently inaccessible or have limited access.
The final rule can be found in the Federal Register.
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