WASHINGTON D.C. -- -- President Donald Trump signed a historic federal lands package into law Tuesday affecting several areas in Yavapai County.
S.47, or the Natural Resources Management Act, includes seven land exchange bills. Five of which are sponsored by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar. He called it “a great day for Arizona” in a statement Tuesday.
The package bundles several different land exchange agreements in areas like Bullhead City, La Paz County and Prescott. H.R. 247, or the Cottonwood Land Exchange Act of 2019, swaps county land for National Forest land.
In the exchange, the Coconino National Forest receives 369 acres of Yavapai County land while the county gets 83 acres of forest land in Cornville, according to Gosar’s office. The parcel is not contiguous or adjacent to any other forest or state land and is surrounded by either private or county land, making it more beneficial for county use anyway.
After Trump signed the bill into law, Gosar took to Twitter to announce his “victory.”
“What a pleasure to have the Oval Office occupied by someone who loves this country,” he Tweeted.
In a statement Tuesday, Gosar, said the agreement is a “mutually beneficial exchange” that has been talked about between the Forest Service and Yavapai County Officials for several years.
According to the agreement, the county intends to maximize use of Windmill Park. The bill also allows improvements including adding a walking bridge, adding a new trail and expanding the park.
“These victories are bottom-up initiatives brought to us by county supervisors and people on the ground,” he stated.
The legislation concerning the Cottonwood Land Exchange Act was first introduced in June 2018 with bipartisan support. It passed the House of Representatives but failed to pass the Senate before the end of the session.
The bill was reintroduced at the start of this legislative session. This time, Gosar got cosponsors like Democrat Rep. Tom O'Halleran and Republican Sen. Martha McSally to help support the initiative.
In a statement Tuesday, District 2 Supervisor Tom Thurman said he “couldn’t be happier.”
“… (I) am proud of Congressman Gosar for spearheading a common sense land exchange that we have been working on at a local level for years,” he said. “I thank Congressmen (Tom) O’Halleran for making the exchange a positive from both sides of the aisle. Now we can make our community park larger and more informative for the public while keeping ancestral conditions intact."
Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski said he’s glad the bill is moving forward.
“It demonstrates great collaboration between city and county leadership, federal partners and our representatives in Congress,” he said. “Cornville’s Windmill Park will be much improved, a benefit to the entire Verde Valley.”
According to the House Committee on Natural Resources, S. 47 will lead economic development as a whole in the West as well as great public access to lands and natural resources.
It also makes reforms to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, curbing federal acquisition and promoting transparency.
The next steps for Yavpai County, Thurman said, will be going through what is called a The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.
This will take about a year and a half to complete, he said.
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