CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
December 9, 2004
For more information contact: Erik Ryberg, Southwest Forest Advocate, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 623-5252
FOREST SERVICE REVERSES CONTROVERSIAL LAND EXCHANGE DECISION AFTER PROTESTS FROM HOMEOWNERS, CONSERVATIONISTS
The Center for Biological Diversity learned today that the Washington, D.C. office of the U.S. Forest Service has reversed a controversial decision to swap federal lands in Greer, Arizona to a Phoenix businessman. The project was challenged by the Greer Coalition, which represents local residents of Greer, and the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity. Both organizations said the land exchange would have been the prelude to large-scale development in the remote White Mountain town.
“We were very happy to join with the Greer Coalition to put a stop to this land swap,” said Erik Ryberg of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It would have completely altered the landscape of Greer.”
“Greer is a remote mountain town that is unlike any other in Arizona, and the community there is working very hard to learn how to live in and restore the forests that drew them to this area in the first place. They are emerging as real leaders in meaningful and effective forest fire protection,” he noted.
The land exchange would have swapped about 340 acres next to Greer for about 400 acres of remote parcels along the Blue River. “Nobody supports federal ownership of those Blue River parcels more than we do, but wrecking the town of Greer is no way to go about obtaining them” said Ryberg. He hopes the Forest Service will seek funding to purchase the properties under the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The decision to approve the land exchange was signed on August 27 of this year by the Director of Lands for the Southwest Region of the Forest Service. The Greer Coalition and The Center for Biological Diversity, among others, filed administrative appeals of the decision to the Chief of the Forest Service on October 21. Appellants learned of the decision to reverse the Region’s decision on Wednesday.
Both organizations were represented by Joy Herr-Cardillo of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.