[House Report 109-169]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]



109th Congress                                            Rept. 109-169
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                     Part 1

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                        SMALL TRACTS REFORM ACT

                                _______
                                

                 July 14, 2005.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Pombo, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            ADDITIONAL VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 1905]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

  The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill 
(H.R. 1905) to amend the Small Tracts Act to facilitate the 
exchange of small tracts of land, and for other purposes, 
having considered the same, report favorably thereon without 
amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.

                          Purpose of the Bill

    The purpose of H.R. 1905 is to amend the Small Tracts Act 
to facilitate the exchange of small tracts of land, and for 
other purposes.

                  Background and Need for Legislation

    H.R. 1905 amends the Small Tracts Act and also facilitates 
the exchange of two tracts of land. Due to time and expense, 
the Forest Service generally only participates in large land 
transactions by either acquiring or selling land. The Small 
Tracts Act was passed to give the Forest Service the authority 
to exchange small parcels of land in an expedited manner. Small 
tracts would include mineral fractions, interspersed parcels, 
lands affected by encroachment or erroneous surveys, road 
rights-of-way, or other parcels of land in which the sale or 
exchange is not practicable under any other authority and the 
management of the area is inefficient. All transactions require 
compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, must be 
limited to 40 acres of land or less, and the value of land to 
be interchanged may not exceed $150,000. These limitations have 
made it difficult for the Forest Service to interchange lands, 
and H.R. 1905 seeks to alleviate such problems.
    As a result of the increasing value of forested land in 
some areas, especially in the wildland-urban Interface or near 
other metropolitan areas, H.R. 1905 eliminates the cap of 
$150,000. This cap was set in 1983 and if adjusted for 
inflation would total $286,000 today. Considering the lengthy 
process of administrative land exchanges, which generally take 
over two years and many times up to a decade, H.R. 1905 also 
expands the acreage cap to 100 acres. Additionally, the Small 
Tracts Act limits some interchanges to lands transferred out of 
federal ownership under ``the mining laws.'' H.R. 1905 would 
eliminate this restriction allowing all lands transferred out 
of federal ownership regardless of the authorizing statute 
(such as the Homestead Act, for example) to be interchanged.
    Next, H.R. 1905 directs the Secretary of Agriculture to 
acquire two small tracts of land from two private landowners in 
the Tahoe National Forest. While the parcels are small enough 
to be exchanged under the Small Tracts Act, other antiquated 
limitations in the Act would prevent the exchange.
    In the first interchange, a private landowner would acquire 
the mineral rights to three acres of the surface estate his 
family has owned since 1939. In exchange the Forest Service 
would acquire seven acres of land adjacent to Tahoe National 
Forest's Indian Valley Campground. The Tahoe National Forest 
has indicated its interest in obtaining the seven acres in 
correspondence to the landowner.
    The second land exchange is necessitated by a boundary 
adjustment 1935. It would exchange a .87 acre of Forest Service 
land located in the landowner's back yard with a .84 acre 
parcel that abuts the .87 acre parcel. This would allow the 
Forest Service to gain access to a trailhead staging area. 
Additionally, the Forest Service has indicated it would be an 
attractive exchange in correspondence to the landowner.
    Currently, there are no appraisals for the lands in 
question. However, any valuation of the land for the Forest 
Service must meet the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal 
Land Acquisitions. Additionally, any receipts received by the 
Forest Service must be deposited into the fund established by 
the Sisk Act.

                            Committee Action

    H.R. 1905 was introduced on April 27, 2005, by Congressman 
John Doolittle (R-CA). The bill was referred primarily to the 
Committee on Resources and additionally to the Committee on 
Agriculture. Within the Resources Committee, the bill was 
referred to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. On 
May 11, 2005, the Subcommittee held a hearing on the bill. On 
May 18, 2005, the Full Resources Committee met to consider the 
bill. The Subcommittee was discharged from further 
consideration of the bill by unanimous consent. No amendments 
were offered, and the bill was ordered favorably reported to 
the House of Representatives by unanimous consent.

            Committee Oversight Findings and Recommendations

    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Resources' oversight findings and recommendations 
are reflected in the body of this report.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United 
States grants Congress the authority to enact this bill.

                    Compliance With House Rule XIII

    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and 
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be 
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) 
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when 
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted 
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
    2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2) 
of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and 
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this 
bill does not contain any new budget authority, spending 
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in tax 
expenditures. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 
enactment of this bill could result in increased offsetting 
receipts, but thee would not exceed $500,000 in any year.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. This bill does 
not authorize funding and therefore, clause 3(c)(4) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives does not 
apply.
    4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause 
3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act 
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate 
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office:

H.R. 1905--Small Tracts Reform Act

    CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 1905 would not 
significantly affect the federal budget. The bill could affect 
direct spending, but we estimate that any such effects would be 
negligible. Enacting H.R. 1905 would not affect revenues. H.R. 
1905 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates 
as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would have 
no significant impact on the budgets of state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    The Small Tracts Act authorizes the Forest Service to sell 
or exchange small parcels of federal land that meet certain 
criteria. H.R. 1905 would expand those criteria to allow the 
agency to sell or exchange larger, more valuable parcels under 
certain circumstances. By allowing the agency to sell more 
valuable land, H.R. 1905 could result in an increase in 
offsetting receipts from the sale of such land. However, based 
on information from the Forest Service, CBO expects that most 
transactions under H.R. 1905 would be completed through 
exchanges of equally valued land rather than sales. Therefore, 
we estimate that any change in offsetting receipts (a credit 
against direct spending) would not exceed $500,000 in any year.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Megan Carroll. 
This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                    Compliance With Public Law 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                Preemption of State, Local or Tribal Law

    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

                        Committee Correspondence

                          House of Representatives,
                                    Committee on Resources,
                                     Washington, DC, June 22, 2005.
Hon. Bob Goodlatte,
Chairman, Committee on Agriculture,
Longworth HOB, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: I ask your help in scheduling H.R. 1905, 
the Small Tracts Reform Act, for consideration by the House of 
Representatives as soon as possible. Authored by John 
Doolittle, H.R. 1905 was referred primarily to the Committee on 
Resources and additionally to your Committee. The purpose of 
H.R. 1905 is to amend the Small Tracts Act to facilitate the 
exchange of small tracts of National Forest Service land. With 
your help, a similar bill was passed by the House of 
Representatives last Congress. The Committee on Resources 
ordered the bill reported without amendment on May 18, 2005, 
and I hope to file the report on the bill before Congress 
adjourns for the July 4th District work period. I have 
forwarded a copy of the draft bill report to your staff for 
review.
    In hopes that the Senate will be able to act on this bill 
this Congress, I ask that you allow the Committee on 
Agriculture to be discharged from further consideration of the 
bill. This action would not be considered as precedent for any 
future referrals of similar measures or seen as affecting your 
Committee's jurisdiction over the subject matter of the bill. 
Moreover, if the bill is conferenced with the Senate, I would 
support naming Agriculture Committee members to the conference 
committee.
    I look forward to your response and would be pleased to 
include it and this letter in the report on H.R. 1905.
            Sincerely,
                                             Richard Pombo,
                                                          Chairman.
                                ------                                

                          House of Representatives,
                                  Committee on Agriculture,
                                     Washington, DC, July 13, 2005.
Hon. Richard W. Pombo,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
Longworth HOB, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for sending me a draft copy of 
the bill report for H.R. 1905, the Small Tracts Reform Act. As 
you are aware, the Committee on Agriculture was granted an 
additional referral for those provisions falling within its 
jurisdiction.
    Recognizing your interest in moving this legislation 
forward, I agree to discharge the Committee on Agriculture from 
further consideration of this bill. I appreciate your 
understanding that this discharge does not affect future 
referrals to the Committee or its jurisdiction over the subject 
matter of the bill. The Committee reserves the right to seek 
conferees to the conference committee, should it be necessary, 
and I thank you for your support in that regard.
    Once again, I am pleased with the cooperation between our 
two committees and hope we continue to work together in this 
spirit in the future.
            Sincerely,
                                             Bob Goodlatte,
                                                          Chairman.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

                     SECTION 3 OF PUBLIC LAW 97-465


                (Commonly known as ``Small Tracts Act'')

  Sec. 3. The National Forest System lands which may be sold, 
exchanged, or interchanged under this Act are those the sale or 
exchange of which is [not practicable] either not practicable 
or not expedient under any other authority of the Secretary[, 
which have a value as determined by the Secretary of not more 
than $150,000,] and which are--
  (1) [parcels of forty acres] parcels or portions of parcels 
of 100 acres or less which are interspersed with or adjacent to 
lands which have been transferred out of Federal ownership 
[under the mining laws] and which are determined by the 
Secretary, because of location or size, not to be subject to 
efficient administration;

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                            ADDITIONAL VIEWS

    While we do not object to the specific goals of this 
legislation--to authorize two land exchanges between private 
landowners and the U.S. Forest Service involving lands in the 
Tahoe National Forest in California--we do object to its 
methods of generically amending the Small Tracts Act and 
bypassing the Federal Land Policy Management Act.
    In the 108th Congress, a bill to authorize the two 
California land exchanges, H.R. 4617, was reported by the 
Committee with an amendment to strike the changes to the Small 
Tracts Act. In addition, H.R. 4617, as reported, required that 
the exchanges comply with the Federal Land Policy Management 
Act. See: H. Rept. 108-866, Part 1.
    H.R. 1905, by contrast, differs in those key respects from 
the amended bill which passed by the House on September 29, 
2004 with bipartisan support.
    Specifically, H.R. 1905 would amend the Small Tracts Act to 
remove the tract value limitation of $150,000 as well as to 
increase the parcel size of a tract from 40 acres or less to 
100 acres or less. Such changes to the Small Tracts Act are not 
necessary to achieve the desired results of authorizing the two 
land exchanges in California and could have unintended 
consequences if applied nation-wide. Moreover, H.R. 1905 fails 
to require that the exchanges comply with the Federal Land 
Policy Management Act, further reducing safeguards intended to 
protect against giveaways of public lands.

                                                       Nick Rahall.
                                                         Tom Udall.