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U.S. TO OWN SOON ALL LAND IN WILDS AREA

U.S. Forest Service officials expect to complete purchase this spring of the last piece of privately owned land in the Mount Naomi Wilderness.

With the purchase of the 20-acre Fitzgerald Lode, an abandoned mine site on the north fork of City Creek east of Richmond, the Forest Service will own all the land within the Mount Naomi Wilderness boundaries.Chip Sibbernsen, acting district ranger for the Logan Ranger District, said buying up islands of privately owned land is part of a Forest Service plan to forestall development and guarantee public access to wilderness areas.

The Forest Service has been pursuing the Fitzgerald purchase for about two months.

Doug Muir, lands officer for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said the transaction will ensure the area stays open to the hikers and deer hunters who regularly use the trail that passes through it.

The Fitzgerald Lode is the Forest Service's latest investment in the area. Two years ago the agency bought 230 acres in the Wellsville Wilderness above Brigham City to protect access and the watershed.

Muir couldn't reveal details about the Fitzgerald purchase price but said it would be based on a suggestion from an independent appraiser. The mine purchase is part of a package that includes land in the Uintas.

Muir hopes to complete the deal by the end of May.