Duluth—The Forest Service recently published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register, to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed School Trust Land Exchange. The Forest Supervisor decided to prepare an EIS based on issues raised during the project scoping period in the spring of 2015. Scoping, or informing the public of a proposed project and requesting input, is the first step of project planning under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The next step for the proposed School Trust Land Exchange is a Draft EIS, which will take a detailed look at the project and potential environmental effects. The Draft EIS will be informed by scoping comments received from the public, along with analysis by a Forest Service interdisciplinary team of resource specialists. The Draft EIS is anticipated for publication in early 2016, and the public will have an opportunity to comment on it. Following a public comment period for the Draft EIS, a Final EIS and a Draft Record of Decision is anticipated for public release in the fall of 2016.
There has been a high level of public interest regarding the proposed School Trust Land Exchange. The Superior National Forest conducted extensive public scoping for the proposed School Trust Land Exchange, beginning in February 2015. More than 1,600 comments were received that expressed a wide range of concerns and suggestions. Additional comments may be submitted until September 30. Directions for submitting scoping comments are included in the Notice of Intent, published in the Federal Register on August 28.
The proposed exchange would transfer 30,000 acres of state school trust lands inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) to the Forest Service in exchange for an equal value of national forest system lands outside the BWCAW. The exchange is one part of a long-term strategy to transfer all 83,000 acres of school trust lands inside the BWCAW to the Forest Service through exchange and purchase. This would allow the State to acquire lands outside the BWCAW that can be managed to generate revenue for the Permanent School Fund. The Superior National Forest would achieve priorities identified in the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, including acquiring land within the BWCAW and consolidating federal ownership to increase management efficiency. Concurrent with the land exchange analysis, the Forest Service is pursuing funds to purchase remaining school trust lands inside the BWCAW.
For more details, go to the School Trust Land page at www.fs.usda.gov/superior.