Hearings and Business Meetings
May 11, 2005
SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:00 PM
Statement of Thomas P. Lonnie
Assistant Director, Minerals, Realty and Resource Protection
Bureau of Land Management,
H.R. 486, A Land Exchange in the Vicinity of Holloman Air Force Base,
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
Thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the U.S. Department of the Interior on H.R. 486, legislation providing for an exchange of public and private land in the vicinity of Holloman Air Force Base in
As an initial matter, the Department views this as a unique situation using Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and the provisions of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 (P.L. 94-579) to resolve this issue involving the military’s need for private lands in Otero County, New Mexico. Given this, we do not expect this matter to serve as precedent for future BLM land exchanges.
Approximately 241 acres of the Mesa Verde Ranch, owned by Randall, Jeffrey, and Timothy Rabon, are situated within the explosive safety zone surrounding a Munitions Storage Area at Holloman AFB. The safety zone for the Munitions Storage Area was previously included in easements immediately adjacent to the eastern boundary of the base, but several of the safety zone easements have terminated. To secure the safety zone around the Munitions Storage Area, Holloman AFB considered acquiring the Rabons’ 241 acres through acquisition, land trade, conservation easement, or condemnation. Acting on behalf of Holloman AFB, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offered to buy the 241 acres from the Rabons. However, the parties failed to reach agreement on a purchase price.
On December 29, 2003, the Rabons submitted a land exchange proposal to the BLM under which they would convey the 241 acres to Holloman AFB in exchange for BLM conveying to them certain inholdings--parcels of BLM-managed public land located within the Rabons’ ranch. On
Under H.R. 486, the Rabons would convey to the
H.R. 486 directs the Secretary to carry out the exchange in the manner provided in section 206 [“Exchanges”] of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 (P.L.94-579), but waives the provision in section 206(b) which limits the amount of cash that may be paid to equalize exchange values of the Federal land conveyed.
We commend the bill’s sponsor for addressing in H.R. 486 several of the concerns we previously raised in testimony on H.R. 4808. Specifically:
- In response to our concern that H.R. 4808 should specify which acres of public land and privately-owned lands are intended for the exchange, H.R. 486 provides a precise description of the lands to be involved in the exchange.
- We asked for the opportunity to develop a map to portray accurately the exchange proposed in H.R. 4808, and to include reference to the map in the legislation. Subsequent to the
September 14, 2004, hearing on H.R. 4808, the Rabons selected different parcels of public land they wished to acquire. The BLM developed a map, which is referenced in section 1(a) of H.R. 486. We note that the bill should be amended to reflect the name of the map as “Alamogordo Rabon Exchange”.
- We objected to the provision in H.R. 4808 that would have deducted the Rabons’ previous expenses (incurred in their response to the military’s efforts to purchase the 241 acres) from any cash equalization payment due to the Federal government as contrary to the public interest. This provision does not appear in H.R. 486.
- In response to our assertion that it was important that lands involved in the proposed exchange be of equal value based upon appraisals prepared in accordance with the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisition, H.R. 486 directs the Secretary to carry out the exchange in the manner provided in section 206 of FLPMA. This will assure that the appraisals will comply with Federal appraisal standards and the U.S. Department of Justice Uniform Standards for
Acquisition. Federal Land
Concerns with H.R. 486
One provision in H.R. 486 remains unchanged from H.R. 4808. We testified as to our concern with this provision at the
Specifically, as in H.R. 4808, H.R. 486 requires the Secretary of the Interior to assume administrative jurisdiction over the 241-acre parcel to be conveyed by the Rabons. As stated in our testimony on H.R. 4808, this acquired land should not be placed under the administrative jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior. The Federal government’s sole purpose in acquiring this 241-acre parcel is for the protection of military interests at Holloman AFB. The acquired land should therefore be withdrawn to the Secretary of the Army for that purpose and included within existing Public Land Order 833.
H.R. 486 directs the Secretary to carry out the land exchange in the manner provided in section 206 of FLPMA. Under section 206, lands proposed for exchange with the
H.R. 486 [section 1(d)(1)] waives the 25 percent limitation in section 206(b) of FLPMA. The effect of this provision in H.R. 486 is that the dollar amount of any cash payment to equalize the values in this exchange would not be limited. This is inconsistent with the section 206 FLPMA process. In addition, generally an exchange proponent is responsible for paying appraisal costs. If the legislation requires the government to pay this cost, funds should be provided for this purpose.
We would like to work with the Committee to address these concerns.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify on H.R. 486. I would be glad to answer any questions.
 Holloman AFB is in south-central