Bureau of Land Management and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians agree to land swap

PALM SPRINGS – The Bureau of Land Management and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians have agreed to swap thousands of acres of land within the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains National Monument.

The agreement sends 2,560 acres of federal land to the tribe for 1,471 acres of tribal land, plus $50,000.

“The land exchange provides a public benefit by consolidating lands within the monument, while enhancing opportunities for public recreation and facilitating more efficient land management,” Field Manager Doug Herrema of the BLM Palm Springs Field Office said.

Officials said the move will increase public access to trails that previously were within tribal lands, while transferring lands to the tribe that are “surrounded by private or tribal land and do not have legal public access.”

Impacts to just over 12 miles of existing trails would be not be changed as a result of the exchange, and threatened native species like the peninsular bighorn sheep, desert tortoise and southwestern willow flycatcher would not be adversely affected, according to a recently released environmental document.

The exchange would also make management of land and trails more efficient, according to the bureau, with the two entities currently owning alternating swaths of land in the Palm Springs area in a “checkerboard” formation. The land swap should provide both the BLM and the tribe with “more logical and consistent land management responsibility,” federal officials said.

“It’s an integral part of the long-standing cooperative agreement between the United States and the tribe that helped create the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains National Monument. The United States recognizes the tribe’s successful history in managing land and resources,” Tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe said.

A “protest period” will remain open until March 12, during which written public comments regarding the agreement can be made directly to BLM.

The agreement won’t be finalized until the protest period expires and all protests are resolved.

Protests may be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to: Field Manager, Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office, 1201 Bird Center Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

The final environmental impact statement and draft statement can be viewed at https://goo.gl/qyjNJa.

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