National omnibus bill contains Mental Health Trust-Tongass land trade

A bill to fund the federal government through September is on the move in Congress, and it includes a long-sought land trade in Southeast Alaska.

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The swap would exchange Alaska Mental Health Trust land near Ketchikan, Petersburg and other Southeast cities for about 20,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest.

It would allow the Trust to gain logging revenues to pay for mental health programming from land that is less controversial.

The Trust’s plans to log areas near Ketchikan and Petersburg were strongly opposed by many community members.

A bill allowing the land trade is also moving through the state Legislature.

The federal spending bill is expected to pass the House this week. It covers the rest of this fiscal year. It does not include many of the domestic spending cuts President Trump proposed for FY2018.

The bill would boost defense spending, including a 2.1 percent military pay increase. It also has $150 million for pre-acquisition work on a heavy icebreaker for the Coast Guard.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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