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Forest Service to Swap 153 Acres for 400 : U.S. to Part With Lake Hughes Land

Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Forest Service is selling 153 acres of Angeles National Forest near Lake Hughes as part of a land swap that will add nearly 400 rugged, pristine acres to the national forest in the San Gabriel Valley.

The Forest Service is selling the land because the changing character of Lake Hughes, a growing, unincorporated community of 1,000 residents, is making it difficult for rangers to administer the area, said Edward Medina, assistant lands officer for the Forest Service.

Problems for Rangers

The forest’s irregular boundaries create jurisdictional headaches for the rangers, Medina said. Fingers of federal land are surrounded by private property--and sometimes vice versa. As a result, Medina said, the Forest Service is often drawn into private property disputes because of its proximity to development.

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“We become mayor of a community,” he said. The property will be used for a water treatment plant that will replace leaking septic tanks that have contaminated the lake for which the community is named.

The land swap is the first of several land exchanges expected in the area 59 miles north of Los Angeles, Medina said. A separate, 2,200-acre strip north of Lake Hughes and bordered on three sides by private property will lose its usefulness as a recreation area as the private land is developed, Medina said.

“There’s really no reason for the Forest Service to be there anymore,” he said, adding that the strip could be traded for forest land elsewhere in 5 to 10 years.

The Forest Service has no plans to sell land near two other unincorporated communities nearby, Medina said. Green Valley and a tiny community east of Bouquet Canyon Reservoir are surrounded by Angeles National Forest.

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Swap Coordinator

The swap is being coordinated by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco.

Under the arrangement, the Forest Service will deed the property to the trust, which will then sell it to Los Angeles County and seven private Lake Hughes landowners. The trust will then give the Forest Service 390 acres it purchased from the city of Monrovia in December for $122,675. The Lake Hughes and Monrovia properties are roughly of equal value, Medina said.

Howard Longballa, Monrovia finance director, said the steep acreage was of little use to the city. “That’s one reason we didn’t mind selling it,” he said.

Medina said using the trust to coordinate the deal is faster than having the Forest Service do the job. The trust can complete financial arrangements in a year, while the Forest Service would take nearly twice as long.

The Forest Service hopes to have the trade completed by January, Medina said.

The Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission approved the trade Oct. 26.


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