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Thursday, January 6, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Plum Creek, Forest Service land swap now official

The Associated Press

SEATTLE - A land swap involving more than 42,000 acres of forest land in the Cascade Mountains and aimed at smoothing out a checkerboard of land holdings has been completed with the transfer of deeds between the Forest Service and Plum Creek Timber Co.

Congress approved the exchange late last year. In the deal, Plum Creek gives up 31,000 acres of land, much of it along Interstate 90 east of Seattle, in exchange for 11,500 acres in federal lands ranging from the central to the south Cascades.

The federal government also must pay $4.3 million as part of the deal, the Forest Service said in a news release yesterday announcing the transfer of deeds.

"This is a very important accomplishment for the public and for Plum Creek Timber Co.," said David Crocker, general manager of Plum Creek's Cascade operations. "It moved private lands with high environmental and recreational values into public ownership, in exchange for lands which are better suited for timber management."

Plum Creek also donated an additional 838 forested acres to the government, in Kittitas County near Lost Lake, Lake Cle Elum and Mount Margaret, the Forest Service said.

The exchange is about one-third smaller than the 65,000-acre swap envisioned a year ago. The smaller size reflects the removal of National Forest lands found to be home to marbled murrelets, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act, and of federal lands on Watch Mountain near Randle that included old-growth timberlands.

The land swaps involve lands in the Wenatchee, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Gifford Pinchot national forests.

Beyond the exchange, Plum Creek has placed eight parcels totaling 4,711 acres in escrow for three years. The government can buy those parcels if money becomes available. The company has offered to give the government an option to buy other company parcels totaling more than 15,000 acres.

The land swap, known as the "I-90 land exchange," was designed to erase the 1800s-era checkerboard pattern of public and private lands that makes individual parcels difficult to manage along the interstate corridor over the Cascades.

The checkerboard pattern occurred when alternating sections of land were given to railroads as payment for pioneering routes across the nation.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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