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Witness Panel 1
Mr. Joel HoltropDeputy Chief of the National Forest SystemForest Service, Department of Agriculture
US FOREST SERVICE
DEPUTY CHIEF FOR NATIONAL
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
UNITED STATES SENATE
AND FORESTS PUBLIC LANDS
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
May 11, 2005
S. 100 –
Exchange Act of 2005 Pitkin County Land
S. 235 and H.R. 816 -
Disposal Act of 2005 Nevada National Forest Land
S. 404 – Washoe Tribe of
and Nevada Conveyance California Land
S. 741 –
Administrative Site Disposal Act Oregon National Forest
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today in order to provide the Department’s views on S. 100 –Pitkin County Land Exchange Act of 2005, S. 235 and H.R. 816 - Nevada National Forest Land Disposal Act of 2005, S.404 – Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California Land Conveyance and S. 741 – Oregon National Forest Administrative Site Disposal Act. I am accompanied today by Greg Smith, US Forest Service Director of Lands.
S. 100 –
Exchange Act of 2005 Pitkin County Land
S.100 would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to exchange thirteen parcels of National Forest System lands (totaling 11.42 acres) and the Secretary of the Interior to exchange one 40 acre parcel of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land for two parcels of non-federal land (35 acres and 18.2 acres) if Pitkin County, Colorado offers to convey title to the non-federal land that is acceptable to the Secretary of Agriculture. The lands acquired by the Secretaries would then become part of the
in White River National Forest . The federal lands would be conveyed to Colorado . Pitkin County, Colorado
The Departments would have no objection to the enactment of S.100 if the reversionary clause in section 5(d)(1)(B) is modified. DOI would like the opportunity to work with the Committee and the sponsors of the bill on amendments to ensure that the reversionary clause is discretionary for the Secretary of the Interior to avoid potential liability to the Federal government. Also, the Departments would like the opportunity to finalize the map cited in the legislation to ensure the accuracy of the federal parcels to be transferred.
The acquisition of the non-federal parcels would consolidate National Forest land ownership in and around the historic Ashcroft Townsite and on
. The non-federal parcels and surrounding lands are a popular sightseeing and recreation destination used for nordic skiing and contain historic structures associated with the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division during World War II. Smuggler Mountain
Section 5 (a) – (c) of the bill would require that the value of the federal and non-federal lands directed to be exchanged under S.100 be equal, with values being determined by appraisal conducted in accordance with the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices and the Forest Service appraisal instructions. The bill includes provisions on equalizing values, if necessary.
Section 5 (d) (1) (A) of the bill requires
to grant to an entity acceptable to the Secretary of the Interior a permanent conservation easement. The conservation easement would provide for public access on the BLM parcel conveyed to the County and would limit future use to recreational, fish and wildlife and open space purposes only. However, under section 5 (b) (2) of the bill, the appraiser would be directed not to consider the easement in appraising this parcel. Pitkin County
S. 235 and H.R. 816 -
Disposal Act of 2005 Nevada National Forest Land
For ease of discussion references to S. 235 also apply to H.R. 816, unless otherwise noted. S. 235 would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to sell seven specific parcels of National Forest System land in
or Douglas County, Nevada ranging from 2.5 to 80 acres in size. Proceeds from the sales would be dispersed to various state and local entities, and the federal government. Carson City
Section 3 (d) (1) of the bill provides that the Secretary shall “ (A) pay five percent to the State of Nevada for use for the general education program of the state; (B) pay five percent to the Carson Water Subconservancy District in the State; (C) deposit 25 percent in the fund established under Public Law 90-171 (commonly known as the Sisk Act; 16 U.S.C. 484a); and (D) retain and use, without further appropriation, the remaining funds for the purpose of expanding the Minden Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden, Nevada, as provided in paragraph (3).”
Section 3 (d) (2) of the bill provides that the amounts deposited in the Sisk Act Fund “shall be available to the Secretary until expended, without further appropriation, for the following purposes: (A) Reimbursement of costs incurred by the local offices of the Forest Service in carrying out land sales under this section, not to exceed 10 percent of the total proceeds of the land sales. (B) The development and maintenance of parks, trails, and natural areas in
or Carson City , (H.R. 816 also lists Douglas County ), in accordance with a cooperative agreement entered into with the unit of local government in which the park, trail or natural area is located.” Washoe County, Nevada
The Department agrees these tracts of National Forest System land are difficult and inefficient to manage, and appropriate for conveyance. However, the Administration is concerned that the proposed use of proceeds from the sale of real property—a conversion of a capitol asset owned by the Federal taxpayer—would support ongoing operational expenses, including those of non-federal entities. The Department would not oppose the bill if the proceeds generated from the sale of these lands were used to fund critical facility maintenance and construction needs on National Forest System lands. Considering the nature of the lands proposed for sale, we think the use of these sale proceeds for funding facility projects is appropriate and would further the Forest Service’s facilities realignment objectives. The President’s FY 2006 Budget includes a more fiscally prudent proposal which would provide the Secretary with the authority to sell administrative sites, to provide more efficient real estate management of lands and facilities throughout the entire National Forest System.
We would like to work with the committee and the bill’s sponsors on amendments regarding the distribution and use of the proceeds generated from the sales of these Federal parcels.
S.404 - Washoe Tribe of
and Nevada Conveyance California Land
PL 108-67 directed the conveyance of approximately 24 acres of NFS land to the Department of the Interior to be held in trust for the Washoe Tribe of
and Nevada . The proposal in S.404 would shift the conveyance described in PL 108-67 approximately 615 feet south along the California shoreline adjacent to Skunk Harbor Lake Tahoe. The current conveyance includes only rocky shoreline. S. 404 would include approximately 300 feet of sandy beach. The conveyance of 80% of the public’s accessible sandy beach area in will limit public access to the remaining 90 feet of sandy beach located near the historic Newhall House. This will limit the approximately 6,000 people who use Skunk Harbor annually to only 90 feet of public beach. The increased usage of the beach will subsequently increase the management needs for the beach area and the adjacent Newhall House. Skunk Harbor
The Department recognizes the Tribe’s interest in adjusting the conveyance in PL 108-67 but believes S.404 will create additional management challenges. We would recommend working with the Committee, the Tribe and the bill sponsors on amendments to ensure that the Tribe’s conveyance objectives are met while mitigating the public access issues.
The boundary description in S. 404 legislation is not easily identified on the ground. In order to avoid long term survey and land ownership issues, we recommend that the Bureau of Land Management through the Bureau of Indian Affairs or a private Licensed Surveyor provide a legal description and Record of Survey once the boundary has been determined. The Department recommends making changes to the boundary tied to identifiably distinct features on the ground (e.g. roads). These boundary changes would insure a more effective management of the National Forest System lands adjacent to the lands being conveyed to the Tribe.
It is important to note that Forest Service personnel, using geographic information system techniques, estimated the adjusted boundary described in S.404 which resulted in approximately 21.6 acres being conveyed rather than the 24.3 acres as mentioned in S. 404 and conveyed under PL 108-67. This is displayed on the map generated for the hearing today.
S. 741 –
Administrative Site Disposal Act Oregon National Forest
S. 741 would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to sell or exchange, under such terms as the Secretary may prescribe, any or all right, title and interest of the United States in and to the following 25 National Forest System lands and improvements located in the Rogue River, Siskiyou, Siuslaw, Umpqua, and Willamette National Forests in the State of Oregon. S. 741 would also correct an unanticipated problem generated when the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness was initially designated.
The specific tracts listed in S.741 are as follows:
Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
(1) The Star Gulch Complex consisting of 2.25 acres and six buildings;
(2) The Butte Falls Housing Complex consisting of 2.5 acres and four buildings;
(3) The Old Agnes Guard Station consisting of 2.5 acres and six buildings;
(4) The Chetco Ranger District Housing complex consisting of 1.5 acres and 5 buildings;
House consisting of 0.25 acres and one building; Gold Beach
consisting of 1.59 acres and eight buildings; Powers South Work Center
Siuslaw National Forest
(7) The Gardiner Administrative Site consisting of 3.5 acres and four buildings;
(8) The Waldport Administrative Site consisting of 6.65 acres and four buildings;
Umpqua National Forest
(9) The Roseburg Service Center Administrative Site consisting of 2.92 acres and five buildings;
(10) The Roseburg Powder House Administrative Site consisting of 1.34 acres;
(11) Brown Street Residence Administrative Site consisting of 2.35 acres and three buildings;
Willamette National Forest
(12) The Blue River Administrative Site consisting of 31.91 acres and ten buildings;
(13) The Hemlock House consisting of 6 acres and two buildings;
(14) The Flat Creek Administrative Site consisting of 45 acres and accompanying buildings;
(15) The Rigdon Administrative Site consisting of 15 acres and accompanying buildings;
(16) The Cascadia Administrative Site consisting of 15 acres and two buildings;
(17) The Sweet Home House consisting of 0.07 acres and one building;
(18) The Sweet Home House consisting of 1.4 acres and one building;
(19) The Sweet Home House consisting of 0.21 acres and one building;
(20) The Mill City House consisting of 0.30 acres and one building;
(21) The Mill City House consisting of 0.30 acres and one building;
(22) The Mill City House consisting of 0.30 acres and one building;
(23) The Mill City House consisting of 0.33 acres and one building;
(24) The Willamette National Forest Administrative Site consisting of 2.24 acres and five buildings; and
(25) The West Fir residences consisting of 20 acres.
The Department appreciates the interest and support of the Committee and bill sponsors in helping us deal with our needs for facilities realignment.
S. 741 authorizes the sale of the above mentioned tracts through auction or bid and provides for the use of brokers to facilitate the sales. In addition any appraisals deemed necessary by the Secretary shall conform to the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions. Proceeds derived from the sales will be deposited in the fund established under Public Law 90-171 (commonly know as the Sisk Act; 16 U.S.C 484a). These funds would be made available to the Secretary, without further appropriation, to be used for the acquisition of lands and interest in lands in the specified National Forests, the payment or reimbursement of costs incurred by the Forest Service in processing the conveyance and for the acquisition or construction of new facilities or the rehabilitation of existing Forest Service facilities.
As the bill illustrates, the Department has a number of facilities and appurtenant land no longer needed by the agency. The FY 2006 Budget contains a proposal for legislation that would authorize the Secretary to sell such units excess to the agency’s need and to utilize the proceeds from those sales for the acquisition, improvement, maintenance, and disposition of administrative sites and capitol improvements on National Forest System lands. Funds deposited under this authority would address backlogs and administrative consolidations while improving efficiencies through the reconstruction of functionally obsolete facilities or construction of new facilities. This authority would eliminate the need to pass legislation for every State or
Forestthat has these needs. The Administration will forward legislative language to Congress within the next several weeks to accomplish these worthy goals. In this context, the Department could not support S. 741 without the following modification:
Under Section 2 (c) the Secretary is authorized to convey, without consideration, to the State of
or a local government for public purposes any or all right, title and interest of the Oregon in and to any of the land described in subsection (a). The Department would recommend the lands and accompanying buildings be offered to the State of United States or a local government at market value and that proceeds of the conveyance be used for the acquisition or construction of new facilities or the reconstruction of existing facilities. This approach would then be consistent with the Administration’s legislative proposal. Oregon
In addition, Section 329 of the Department of the Interior and Related Appropriations Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-63), as amended, established a pilot program authorizing the conveyance of excess Forest Service structures. The tracts identified in section 2 (a) (17) through (23) have been sold under this authority. We would recommend removing them from the bill.
S. 741 would make a technical correction of the Rogue Umpqua Divide Wilderness by slightly modifying the boundary so that (1) a road is outside the wilderness by removing approximately 1.3 acres from the wilderness, and (2) by adding approximately 1.3 acres of land with wilderness character to the wilderness to offset the removal.
The original legal description, prepared in accordance with the map of record at the time of designation, inadvertently resulted in a short segment of
Forest Service Road No.2947-300 being within the Rogue Umpqua Divide Wilderness by approximately 20 feet. This has resulted in the closure of the road which is necessary to access National ForestSystem land beyond the area where the road is within the wilderness area. The small portion of land cut off by the road, which is designated as wilderness, clearly has no wilderness character.
This concludes my statement, I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Statement of Thomas P. Lonnie
Assistant Director, Minerals, Realty and Resource Protection
Bureau of Land Management,
Department of the Interior U.S.
H.R. 486, A Land Exchange in the Vicinity of Holloman Air Force Base,
and Forests Public Lands
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
Senate United States May 11, 2005
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
. In previous testimony on similar legislation (H.R. 4808) given in the 108th Congress, we raised significant concerns, several of which have been addressed in H.R. 486. One concern previously identified in our testimony on H.R.4808 remains outstanding, and we have identified new concerns described more fully in this testimony. The Department has significant concerns with H.R. 486 and could support the bill if our concerns are addressed. New Mexico
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
July 9, 2004, H.R. 4808 was introduced, which directed the exchange of the Rabons’ 241 acres for parcels of BLM-managed public land located within the Mesa Verde Ranch (the same parcels identified in the Rabons’ proposal to the BLM of December 29, 2003). At a September 14, 2004, hearing of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and , the BLM testified that it had significant concerns with H.R. 4808. The legislation was not enacted. In the meantime, the military still has been unable to reach agreement with the Rabons on a price at which Holloman AFB could purchase the land. Public Lands
Under H.R. 486, the Rabons would convey to the
three parcels of private land, totaling approximately 241 acres, contiguous to Holloman AFB and located within the required safety zone surrounding munitions storage bunkers at the base. H.R. 486 directs the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to convey to the Rabons approximately 320 acres of public domain land currently managed by the BLM in the state of United States . As distinguished from the BLM parcels identified in H.R. 4808 in the last Congress, the 320-acre parcel of public land which the Secretary is directed to convey to the Rabons under H.R. 486 is not located within the boundaries of the Mesa Verde Ranch; rather, it is located near the southern portion of the city of New Mexico , and has been identified for retention under the BLM’s land use planning process. Alamogordo, New Mexico
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
September 14, 2004, hearing on H.R. 4808. We continue to have concerns with this provision.
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
government must be of equal value with the lands to be conveyed out of Federal ownership. If lands proposed for an exchange are not of equal value, subsection (b) of section 206 provides for a cash payment to be made by either the government or the private-property owner, as appropriate, in order to equalize the values of the lands involved in the exchange, provided the payment amount does not exceed 25 percent of the total value of the lands transferred out of Federal ownership. United States
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
, near the town of New Mexico in Alamogordo . Operated by the United States Air Force, the installation covers nearly 60,000 acres. It is located on lands withdrawn from the public domain for military purposes under Public Land Order 833. Otero County