Wilderness trader cashes in

  When the Forest Service agreed to give developer Tom Chapman 110 acres near the ski town of Telluride, Colo., in exchange for his wilderness inholding on the Gunnison National Forest, critics were outraged. They said taxpayers would lose valuable public land while Chapman stood to gain a huge profit. Apparently, the critics were right. Chapman, who engineered the land swap after starting to build a luxury cabin in the West Elk Wilderness, recently received $2.7 million for just 70 acres of land. The Forest Service appraised the entire 110 acres at just $640,000 (HCN, 5/2/94). Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, D, who called the land trade between Chapman and the Forest Service "a blatant public fleecing," said he'd ask for a "complete evaluation of the way the Forest Service determines values in volatile real estate markets' such as Telluride. Forest Service officials, who have for more than a year clung steadfastly to the claim their appraisal was accurate, say they don't know why Chapman made so much money selling his Telluride property. "That's a big difference and we rarely see that," says Forest Servivce land exchange specialist Paul Zimmerman. "Our appraisal process is typical of that used throughout the country. We may well have missed on this one, but I don't know." Meanwhile, Chapman is asking $1.5 million for the remaining 40-acre parcel he received from the agency.