A springtime view of Deer Mountain. (KRBD file photo by Leila Kheiry)

A lengthy process to exchange land between the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority is coming to a close.

The exchange will put Ketchikan’s Deer Mountain under federal ownership, along with other parcels close to communities in Southeast that otherwise could have been logged. Forest Service land in more remote areas of the region will be given to the Trust in exchange, and most likely will be logged.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly heard an update on Monday from Trust Authority CEO Mike Abbott.

“Many of you are aware that for more than 10 years, there’s been work to exchange trust-owned lands around Ketchikan and several other communities in Southeast Alaska for Forest Service lands,” he said. “That process, I’m glad to say, is nearly complete.”

Abbott said phase one has been approved by the Trust Authority Board, and should be signed off by the Forest Service soon – the exact date is unclear because of the federal government shutdown.

“The execution of phase one will mean a couple of things. It means two of the large parcels near Ketchikan will transfer to the Forest Service, and a large parcel on Prince of Wales Island will transfer to the Trust,” he said.

Phase two will be completed in the next year, Abbott said. That includes several more parcels in the Ketchikan area that will transfer to the Forest Service, along with other parcels in other Southeast communities. The Trust will then receive more parcels on POW.

The trust uses its lands to raise money for mental health services in Alaska.

In 2016, Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office announced that it planned to move forward with logging Deer Mountain and land near homes in Petersburg if the land exchange wasn’t approved in early 2017. That led to public outcry and questions about the TLO’s decision-making process. In spring of 2017, legislation approving the exchange passed Congress.