Federal Judge To Decide On U.P. Land Deal

May 21, 2014

Wildcat Falls near Watersmeet
Credit Partners In Forestry website

Both sides are waiting on a Michigan federal judge's ruling in a land swap battle in the Ottawa National Forest that has gone on since 2010.

At issue is a proposed land swap involving the U.S. Forest Service and some property owned by Robert and Lisa Delich south of the Porcupine mountains. The Delich's property is 420 acres while the National Forest property including Wildcat Falls near Watersmeet is 321 acres. Appraisals for the Forest Service the parcels said the parcels were comparable, but opponents of the land deal say they are not. It has been tied up in court with a series of appeals.

Joe Hovel of Vilas county is a member of Partners in Forestry Cooperative, one of the parties appealing the decision to trade parcels. He says those appealing the decision by the U.S.  Forest Service are at a loss to explain the swap, seeing the Wildcat Falls area as far more valuable than the proposed acreage in trade.....

"....it's impossible to explain the loss of Wildcat Falls because there are other waterfalls on the Ottawa National Forest? To explain the justification of the North Country Trail being moved further from the parcel they would acquire after the Forest Service touted the recreational benefits of the trail in their justification for the exchange?"

Hovel says those appealing think the land value between the Wildcat Falls property and the other property, though fewer acres, is nowhere near comparable.

A spokesperson for the Ottawa National Forest of the U.S. Forest Service said because the matter is in litigation, they would not comment.

The matter is in U.S. Court for the Western District of Michigan, Northern Division.