Growth study area just hypothetical

Chico eyes forest land the government plans to keep

Click here to see the Mendocino National Forest study area and here for the land-use map that includes it.

Is national forest land up for sale? That’s a natural question since the city of Chico included the Mendocino National Forest in its list of land-use alternatives for the updated general plan.

The property in question—south of the Skyway and east of Highway 99—contains the Genetics Resource and Conservation Center, whose seed-farming operation bolsters the Forest Service’s reforestation efforts. Butte County has a search-and-rescue facility there through a use permit.

“As far as I know, there are no plans in the immediate future [to sell the land],” said Phebe Brown, public affairs officer for the forest—and she’d know because it first would have to get listed as surplus federal property, “and it’s not.” City Councilman Tom Nickell, who also had his curiosity piqued, got the same response from Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras.

So why did this strike Chico planners as a place for development? City Manager Dave Burkland noted that “the demonstration garden has been open to the public” and the parcel is “open space” that “over time people have talked about acquiring.” Planning Director Steve Peterson first said, “It is for sale,” then corrected himself and explained the site had been “identified as something potentially, long term, a reserve site.”