36 CFR § 254.3 - Requirements.

§ 254.3 Requirements.

(a) Discretionary nature of exchanges. The Secretary is not required to exchange any Federal lands. Land exchanges are discretionary, voluntary real estate transactions between the Federal and non-Federal parties. Unless and until the parties enter into a binding exchange agreement, any party may withdraw from and terminate an exchange proposal at any time during the exchange process.

(b) Determination of public interest. The authorized officer may complete an exchange only after a determination is made that the public interest will be well served.

(1) Factors to consider. When considering the public interest, the authorized officer shall give full consideration to the opportunity to achieve better management of Federal lands and resources, to meet the needs of State and local residents and their economies, and to secure important objectives, including but not limited to: protection of fish and wildlife habitats, cultural resources, watersheds, and wilderness and aesthetic values; enhancement of recreation opportunities and public access; consolidation of lands and/or interests in lands, such as mineral and timber interests, for more logical and efficient management and development; consolidation of split estates; expansion of communities; accommodation of existing or planned land use authorizations (§ 254.4(c)(4); promotion of multiple-use values; implementation of applicable Forest Land and Resource Management Plans; and fulfillment of public needs.

(2) Findings. To determine that an exchange well serves the public interest, the authorized officer must find that—

(i) The resource values and the public objectives served by the non- Federal lands or interests to be acquired must equal or exceed the resource values and the public objectives served by the Federal lands to be conveyed, and

(ii) The intended use of the conveyed Federal land will not substantially conflict with established management objectives on adjacent Federal lands, including Indian Trust lands.

(3) Documentation. The findings and the supporting rationale shall be documented and made part of the administrative record.

(c) Equal value exchanges. Except as provided in § 254.11 of this subpart, lands or interests to be exchanged must be of equal value or equalized in accordance with the methods set forth in § 254.12 of this subpart. An exchange of lands or interests shall be based on market value as determined by the Secretary through appraisal(s), through bargaining based on appraisal(s), through other acceptable and commonly recognized methods of determining market value, or through arbitration.

(d) Same-State exchanges. Unless otherwise provided by statute, the Federal and non-Federal lands involved in an exchange must be located within the same State.

(e) Congressional designations. Upon acceptance of title by the United States, lands acquired by the Secretary of the Interior by exchange under the authority granted by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended, which are within the boundaries of any unit of the National Forest System, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the National Trails System, the National Wilderness Preservation System, or any other system established by Act of Congress; or the boundaries of any national conservation area or national recreation area established by Act of Congress, immediately are reserved for and become a part of the unit or area in which they are located, without further action by the Secretary of the Interior, and, thereafter, shall be managed in accordance with all laws, rules, regulations, and land resource management plans applicable to such unit or area.

(f) Land and resource management planning. The authorized officer shall consider only those exchange proposals that are consistent with land and resource management plans (36 CFR part 219). Lands acquired by exchange that are located within areas having an administrative designation established through the land management planning process shall automatically become part of the area within which they are located, without further action by the Forest Service, and shall be managed in accordance with the laws, rules, regulations, and land and resource management plan applicable to such area.

(g) Environmental analysis. After an agreement to initiate an exchange is signed, the authorized officer shall undertake an environmental analysis in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4371), the Council on Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR parts 15001508), and Forest Service environmental policies and procedures (Forest Service Manual Chapter 1950 and Forest Service Handbook 1909.15). In making this analysis, the authorized officer shall consider timely written comments received in response to the exchange notice published pursuant to § 254.8 of this subpart.

(h) Reservations or restrictions in the public interest. In any exchange, the authorized officer shall reserve such rights or retain such interests as are needed to protect the public interest or shall otherwise restrict the use of Federal lands to be exchanged, as appropriate. The use or development of lands conveyed out of Federal ownership are subject to any restrictions imposed by the conveyance documents and all laws, regulations, and zoning authorities of State and local governing bodies.

(i) Hazardous substances—(1) Federal lands. The authorized officer shall determine whether hazardous substances are known to be present on the Federal lands involved in the exchange and shall provide notice of known storage, release, or disposal of hazardous substances on the Federal lands in the contract agreement and in the conveyance document, pursuant to 40 CFR part 373 and 42 U.S.C. 9620. For purposes of this section, the notice of hazardous substances on involved Federal lands in an agreement to initiate an exchange or an exchange agreement meets the requirements for notices established in 40 CFR part 373. Unless the non-Federal party is a potentially responsible party under 42 U.S.C. 9607(a) and participated as an owner, or in the operation, arrangement, generation, or transportation of the hazardous substances found on the Federal land, the conveyance document from the United States must contain a covenant warranting that all remedial action necessary to protect human health and the environment with respect to any such substances remaining on the property has been taken before the date of transfer and that any additional remedial action found necessary after the transfer shall be conducted by the United States, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 9620(h)(3). The conveyance document must also reserve to the United States the right of access to the conveyed property if remedial or corrective action is required after the date of transfer. Where the non-Federal party is a potentially responsible party with respect to the property, it may be appropriate to enter into an agreement as referenced in 42 U.S.C. 9607(e) whereby that party would indemnify the United States and hold the United States harmless against any loss or cleanup costs after conveyance.

(2) Non-Federal lands. The non-Federal party shall notify the authorized officer of any hazardous substances known to have been released, stored, or disposed of on the non-Federal land, pursuant to § 254.4 of this subpart. Notwithstanding such notice, the authorized officer shall determine whether hazardous substances are known to be present on the non-Federal land involved in an exchange. If hazardous substances are known or believed to be present on the non-Federal land, the authorized officer shall reach an agreement with the non-Federal party regarding the responsibility for appropriate response action concerning the hazardous substances before completing the exchange. The terms of this agreement and any appropriate “hold harmless agreement” shall be included in an exchange agreement, pursuant to § 254.14 of this subpart.

(j) Legal description of properties. All lands subject to an exchange must be properly described on the basis of either a survey executed in accordance with the Public Land Survey System laws and standards of the United States or, if those laws and standards cannot be applied, the lands shall be properly described and clearly locatable by other means as may be prescribed or allowed by law.

(k) Special review. Except as provided in this paragraph, land acquisitions of $150,000 or more in value made under the authority of the Weeks Act of March 1, 1911, as amended (16 U.S.C. 516), must be submitted to Congress for oversight review, pursuant to the Act of October 22, 1976, as amended (16 U.S.C. 521b). However, minor and insignificant changes in land acquisition proposals need not be resubmitted for congressional oversight, provided the general concept of and basis for the acquisition remain the same.