House approves Cook’s bipartisan federal-county land exchange bill

The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a bipartisan bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) that would authorize a land exchange between the federal government and San Bernardino County, Calif.

The House on Nov. 20 unanimously approved by voice vote the Big Bear Land Exchange Act, H.R. 255, which Rep. Cook sponsored in January with bill cosponsor U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA).

“I’m pleased that the House passed the Big Bear Land Exchange,” Rep. Cook said. “I’ve worked closely with our local governments to ensure this land exchange is done correctly and that all the stakeholders have their concerns resolved.”

If enacted, H.R. 255 would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to convey 73 acres of identified Forest Service land in the San Bernardino National Forest to San Bernardino County in exchange for roughly 71 acres of identified land owned by the county, according to the congressional record summary.

The County plans to use the 73 acres to build a timber processing facility in a remote site further away from Big Bear City and closer to where the trees are actually processed, according to Rep. Cook’s office, which noted that the trees now are driven down the mountain through a dangerous pass to a distant processing facility, resulting in increased traffic congestion and accidents.

Rep. Cook said H.R. 255 “will alleviate traffic and make mountain roads in the area safer.”

Additionally, according to Rep. Aguilar, H.R. 255 could help “combat pollution and improve air quality in San Bernardino County.”

Before completing the exchange, USDA must relocate the portion of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail that is located on the federal land to adjacent National Forest System land; land owned by the county that’s subject to county approval; land within the federal land that would be subject to county approval; or a combination of any of these items, according to the summary.

The measure now advances to the U.S. Senate for consideration.