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Judge Rules In Favor of Forest Service in Wildcat Falls Land Swap

A land swap in the Upper Peninsula that turns Wildcat Falls over to private hands is set to move forward.

In a lawsuit over the issue, a federal judge has ruled in favor of the U.S. Forest Service, saying the agency did adequately assess the impacts of a trade known as the Delich Land Exchange…that opponents argue isn’t in the public interest. 

Christine Handler, Forest Planner for the Ottawa National Forest, says the original trade holds, with Forest Service gaining more than 400 acres. 

“The original decision included an exchange where the forest service was receiving private land adjacent to the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness area, within our Ottawa National Forest in a primitive nonmotorized area.”

In exchange, the Forest Service plans to trade five parcels of public land totaling about 240 acres…and including the popular Wildcat Falls. 

The deal has been tied up in court since 2010, when several parties led by the group Partners in Forestry filed suit against the Forest Service.  The plaintiffs said the agency didn’t adequately evaluate the environmental impact of losing a stand of old growth forest and public access to Wildcat Falls.

But in the latest court decision, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell ruled that the Forest Service did fully consider those impacts.  He wrote that it was not the court’s place to second-guess Forest Service expertise. 

The Forest Service expects the deal to be finalized by the end of the year.  

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