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Eagle County worker housing needs have some eyeing Forest Service lands

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. ” In the quest to find more places for Eagle County workers to live, some Eagle County residents are turning their attention to the biggest landowner in their area: the U.S. Forest Service.

About 84 percent of the county is owned by the federal government, and there are ways that local governments could acquire slivers of the land for housing ” even if most of that land is either too remote, too steep or too sensitive for development.

“I don’t know exactly where you’d do it, but they have a lot of land up and down the valley,” former Vail Mayor Rod Slifer said.



Slifer has eyed a piece of land north of the East Vail interchange that he said could be right for housing. But he was unable to convince other Vail council members to pursue the idea of looking at Forest Service land, he said.

“I could never get anybody to get behind it,” Slifer said. One way to acquire Forest Service land is a swap in which the Forest Service would receive land that it considers valuable, such as wildlife habitat, said Eagle District Ranger Brian Lloyd.




Otherwise, Congressional approval might be needed to approve a sale, Lloyd said.

A third option is the “Townsite Act,” which can allow for Forest Service lands to be sold to towns if those lands serve a community need. That might include housing, Lloyd said.

But even if the Forest Service owns most of the county’s land, little of the agency’s property is appropriate for building cheap homes, said County Commissioner Peter Runyon. Much of it is in steep areas, far from roads and jobs.

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