Forester should have fallen

  Dear HCN,


The opinion expressed by Ted Williams on a "Fallen Forester" (HCN, 12/21/98) is not shared by those who are familiar with federal land exchanges in Nevada. What Mr. Williams didn't say was, while Jim Nelson was "hustling around the countryside cutting land deals, adding 100,000 acres to the forest," the taxpayers were losing over $100 million by wheeling and dealing government resource managers such as Jim Nelson.


The reservoir of high-value BLM subdivision land in the Las Vegas Valley has been viewed by resource managers in recent years as an unlimited slush fund to do as they pleased in "cutting land deals' while flouting the appraisal process and the meaning of fair market value. Serious problems with Nevada exchange appraisals did not originate with the Deer Creek exchange. Nor was Phil Tittman, chief Forest Service appraiser, the first to identify such problems. The whistle was being blown on these appraisals for several years prior, but was sounding on deaf ears. Government exchange files (open to public examination) are full of identified appraisal problems.


Ted Williams should have commended, not chastised, Paul Tittman for his professionalism in the Deer Creek exchange. Tittman, in his 4/4/96 memorandum, was making the Forest Service lands director aware of a mini-Teapot Dome scandal. After all, that is what he (Tittman) is being paid for. Both Mr. Williams and Mr. Nelson have a lot to learn about appraisals. The continuing criminal investigation of the Deer Creek and other exchanges in Nevada may enlighten not only the public on this matter, but Mr. Nelson and others involved in these exchanges.





Charles E. Hancock


Reno, Nevada





The writer is a retired chief appraiser for the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada.


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