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TORTOISES, PRICE MAY HINDER SALE OF STATE PROPERTY

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Two other problems are dogging the proposed sale of 2,428 acres of state land in Washington County to developer James Doyle: Whether the price is right, and how to deal with rare reptiles.

Doyle leased the tract from the Division of State Lands and Forestry and the division has proposes to sell it to him for about $400,000, which is a bit more than $160 per acre.Division Director Pat Spurgin told the Deseret News that two appraisers were consulted. One decided the access possibilities for the land were good and came up with a value of $800,000. The other had a less-favorable idea of access to the land and assessed its value at $245,000.

Both appraisers agreed to submit it to a third expert, a review appraiser.

"The review appraiser went with the $245,000 (figure)," Spurgin said. "It was surprising, because we figured the review appraiser would probably go with the high one, but the difference was based on the question of access to the land."

Spurgin said this is the figure that the division tentatively accepted, but then third parties challenged the appraisal. He said a hearing examiner has been appointed to review the situation and make recommendations to the State Land Board. The pricing controversy should be sorted out within the next 60 days, Spurgin added.

What may take longer to clear up is the problem of the endangered desert tortoises that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says are on the land. Desert tortoises were recently the subject of an emergency declaration by the Service, changing its status from threatened to endangered.