The Tonto Apache Tribe is the smallest tribe in Arizona, with only 110 members. It also has the smallest land base, Nathaniel Campbell, tribal spokesman said.
But it is growing.
Campbell said the tribal leaders, their representatives and the U.S. Forest Service are entering the final days of the very long process to expand the Tonto Apache's land base.
Currently the reservation is about 85 acres. When the land exchange is complete it will have 273 more acres to the east and 20 more acres by the Payson Event Center, Campbell said.
The land exchange process was started in 1993.
A recent letter from Ed Armenta, Payson District Ranger for the Forest Service, outlined the remaining work.
Updated preliminary title reports are being reviewed by the Forest Service and will be forwarded to the Regional Office. Once they have been received, the Regional Appraiser will issue a "Letter of Instructions to the Appraiser" that will be available to potential contract appraisers.
Completion of the final appraisal will depend on how long it takes for the contract appraiser to complete and submit an acceptable appraisal report and the other high-priority work on the Review Appraiser's schedule.
The tribe must have its archeological assessment contractor, SEC of Sedona, complete its testing plan and submit it to the Forest Service. The Forest Service will then send the information to the State Historical Preservation Office.
The field survey of one of the many parcels involved in the exchange has been postponed while the Forest Service inspector is on a wildfire suppression assignment. The survey and report will be finished as soon as the inspector is available.
Certificates of Inspection are completed for all four of the non-federal parcels in the exchange.
Certificates of Use and Consent will be completed soon after the tribe has finished the trash cleanup on the same property that has yet to have a field survey completed. Once the cleanup has been done, the Forest Service will inspect the property.