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113th Congress   }                                     {      Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session      }                                     {      113-700



 December 22, 2014.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed


 Mr. Hastings of Washington, from the Committee on Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 4979]

    The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 4979) to provide legal certainty to property 
owners along the Red River in Texas, and for other purposes, 
having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an 
amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 


  This Act may be cited as the ``Red River Private Property Protection 


   The Secretary hereby disclaims any right, title, and interest to all 
RedRiver lands located south of the South Bank of the Red River. This 
Act does not change or affect in any manner the sovereignty rights of 
federally recognized Indian tribes over lands located to the north of 
the South Bank of the Red River. Tribal sovereignty rights continue to 
be established and defined by controlling Federal law.


  (a) In General.--The Secretary shall relinquish, disclaim, and shall 
transfer by special warranty deed all right, title, and interest of the 
United States in and to Red River lands to any claimant who 
demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary that they--
          (1) hold all right, title, and interest under a chain of 
        title for at least 30 years from the time of submission;
          (2) have a deed recorded in the appropriate county; and
          (3) have paid all taxes assessed on the land and any interest 
        and penalties associated with any period of tax delinquency.
  (b) Public Notification.--The Secretary shall publish in the Federal 
Register and on official and appropriate Web sites the process to 
receive written and/or electronic submissions of the documents required 
under subsection (a). The Secretary shall treat all proper 
notifications received from the claimant as fulfilling the satisfaction 
requirements under subsection (a).
  (c) Standard of Approval.--The Secretary shall accept all official 
county and State records as filed in the county on the date of 
submission proving right, title, and interest, including all land 
accreted to those lands identified by such records by the processes of 
erosion and accretion.
  (d) Time Period for Approval or Disapproval of Request.--The 
Secretary shall approve or disapprove a request for a special warranty 
deed under subsection (a) not later than 180 days after the date on 
which the written request is received by the Secretary. If the 
Secretary fails to approve or disapprove such a request by the end of 
such 180-day period, the request shall be deemed to be approved.
  (e) Requirements for Decision.--Any final decision by the Secretary 
must contain--
          (1) a field note description used to determine the property 
        claim, which must be--
                  (A) sufficient to locate the land on the ground;
                  (B) consistent with the claimant's deed; and
                  (C) include all land accreted to the claimant by the 
                processes of erosion and accretion;
          (2) an accurate plat of the land that is--
                  (A) consistent with the field notes; and
                  (B) prepared by a Texas licensed State land surveyor; 
          (3) any other matters required by law or as the Secretary 
        considers appropriate consistent with the provisions and intent 
        of this Act.


  (a) In General.--The Secretary shall establish procedures for an 
administrative hearing--
          (1) for a claimant to redress the final decision made 
        pursuant to section 3 regarding a claim by Secretary to their 
        property; and
          (2) to adjudicate disputes between two or more private 
        property owners who have interest claims that overlap pursuant 
        to documents submitted under section 3.
  (b) Judicial Resolution.--If after the final determination has been 
issued under subsection (a) and the private property owner disputes the 
decision, the private property owner may pursue their claim via Federal 
district court within the State of Texas.


  The Secretary shall ensure that no parcels of Red River lands are 
treated as Federal land for the purpose of any resource management plan 
until the Secretary has ensured that such parcels are not subject to 
transfer under section 3.


  Nothing in this Act shall alter--
          (1) any present or future rights and interests of the Kiowa, 
        Comanche, and Apache Tribes and their members or Indian 
        successors-in interest;
          (2) any tribal trust lands;
          (3) allotted lands that may be held in trust or lands subject 
        to a Federal restriction against alienation;
          (4) any boundaries of lands owned by the tribes and nations 
        referred to in paragraph (1), including lands referred to in 
        paragraphs (2) and (3), pursuant to the gradient boundary 
        survey method; and
          (5) the sovereign rights, jurisdiction, or other governmental 
        interests of the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Tribes and their 
        members or Indian successors-in interest presently existing or 
        which may be acknowledged by Federal and tribal law.


  (a) Competitive Sale of Identified Federal Lands.--After the 
Secretary has ensured that Red River lands parcels are not subject to 
transfer under section 3, the Secretary shall offer any and all such 
remaining identified Federal lands for disposal by competitive sale for 
not less than fair market value as determined by an appraisal conducted 
in accordance with nationally recognized appraisal standards, including 
the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions; and the 
Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.
  (b) Existing Rights.--The sale of identified Federal lands under this 
section shall be subject to valid existing tribal, State, and local 
  (c) Proceeds of Sale of Lands.--Net proceeds from the sale of 
identified Federal lands under this section shall be used to offset any 
costs associated with this Act.
  (d) Report.--Not later than 5 years after the date of the enactment 
of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Natural 
Resources of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy 
and Natural Resources of the Senate a list of any identified Federal 
lands that have not been sold under subsection (a) and the reasons such 
lands were not sold.


  For the purposes of this Act--
          (1) the term ``Red River lands'' means lands along the 
        approximately 116-mile stretch of the Red River from its 
        confluence with the North Fork of the Red River on the west to 
        the 98th meridian on the east between the States of Texas and 
          (2) the term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of the 
        Interior, acting through the Director of Bureau of Land 
          (3) the term ``South Bank'' means the water-washed and 
        relatively permanent elevation or acclivity, commonly called a 
        cut bank, along the southerly or right side of the river which 
        separates its bed from the adjacent upland, whether valley or 
        hill, and usually serves to confine the waters within the bed 
        and to preserve the course of the river; as specified in the 
        fifth paragraph of the decree rendered March 12, 1923, in 
        Oklahoma v. Texas, 261 U. S. 340, 43 S. Ct. 376, 67 L. Ed. 687; 
          (4) the term ``Gradient Boundary Survey'' means the 
        measurement technique used to demarcate a division of ownership 
        or jurisdiction along the South Bank under the methodology 
        established by the United States Supreme Court which recognizes 
        that the boundary line between the States of Texas and Oklahoma 
        along the Red River is subject to such changes as have been or 
        may be wrought by the natural and gradual processes known as 
        erosion and accretion as specified in the second, third, and 
        fourth paragraphs of the decree rendered March 12, 1923, in 
        Oklahoma v. Texas, 261 U. S. 340, 43 S. Ct. 376, 67 L. Ed. 687.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 4979 is to provide legal certainty to 
property owners along the Red River in Texas.


    In title disputes, especially in incidents where the long-
standing management, care or knowledge of ownership (including 
improvements) were exercised, and a clear delinquency, 
dereliction or nonexistent control of federal responsibility 
over the land has occurred (without fault or negligence by the 
State or affected property owner), the Committee on Natural 
Resources recognizes the rights of the property owners. The 
longstanding ownership, management and care of these disputed 
lands, recognized as previously paid for and/or maintained 
under State jurisdiction, should protect and guarantee the 
property rights of the affected land owners. They should be 
insulated from federal behavior or response so severe as to 
hold them in trespass, mimic a taking of their property or hold 
their land hostage for a ransom to regain title to property 
they already own. The Committee on Natural Resources generally 
believes that when federal survey errors result in a potential 
conflict of title with private property owners, State and local 
land ownership records should be the arbiter for determining 
    H.R. 4979 would direct the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 
to relinquish and transfer by special warranty deed land along 
116 miles of the Red River in Texas to a landowner who can 
prove through official State or county records that he or she 
fully owns the land. In addition, the bill would require BLM to 
issue a public notice of process and accept all legitimate 
claims of ownership. It would establish a 180-day time period 
in which BLM must act on a request and establishes that 
multiparty disputes would be resolved in Federal district 
court. Furthermore, the bill would prevent any of the land in 
question from being included in any federal land resource 
management plan revision until ownership is resolved. Finally, 
the bill requires the sale of excess BLM lands along the Red 
River, ensures that tribal sovereignty rights are protected, 
and any ownership interests of tribal nations in the area is 
    BLM is resurveying the land along the Red River to update 
the federal land resource management plan for Texas and 
Oklahoma. The survey process has raised questions of 
overlapping ownership claims, which brought this issue to the 
forefront. Initially, BLM claimed it may own 90,000 acres along 
the River, but that estimate has been cut to 30,000 acres, of 
which only 6,402 acres have been actually surveyed. There 
remain multiple landowners who hold title to land included in 
the 30,000 acres. These landowners have been paying taxes on 
the land, and in some cases, have held title to the land for 
    This uncertainty threatens the value of privately-owned 
land as any sale would carry a clouded title. It has also 
halted the willingness of landowners to continue making 
improvements on the land or to utilize the land to its full 
potential through agricultural or other types of development. 
BLM has said that it does not intend to expand federal holdings 
but merely wants to develop a plan for appropriate management 
of lands already in federal ownership. H.R. 4979 will determine 
rightful ownership and bring needed certainty to the land 
owners along the Red River in both Texas and Oklahoma by 
ensuring that the private property interests are protected 
instead of absorbed into BLM's existing massive federal 

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 4979 was introduced on June 26, 2014, by Congressman 
Mac Thornberry (R-TX). The bill was referred to the Committee 
on Natural Resources, and within the Committee to the 
Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. On 
July 29, 2014, the Subcommittee held a hearing on the bill. On 
November 19, 2014, the Natural Resources Committee met to 
consider the bill. The Subcommittee on Public Lands and 
Environmental Regulation was discharged by unanimous consent. 
Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) offered an amendment designated 
Bishop.076; the amendment as adopted by voice vote. No further 
amendments were offered, and the bill, as amended, was adopted 
and ordered favorably reported to the House of Representatives 
by voice vote.


    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 Natural Resources' oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.


    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(1) 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)(2)(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. 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 
requested but not received a cost estimate for this bill from 
the Director of the Congressional Budget Office. The Committee 
believes that enactment of this bill will not have a 
significant effect on the federal budget.
    2. Section 308(a) of 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 revenues or tax expenditures.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by 
clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII, the general performance goal or 
objective of this bill is to provide legal certainty to 
property owners along the Red River in Texas.

                           EARMARK STATEMENT

    This bill does not contain any Congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined 
under clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of Rule XXI of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                       COMPLIANCE WITH H. RES. 5

    Directed Rule Making. The Chairman does not believe that 
this bill directs any executive branch official to conduct any 
specific rule-making proceedings.
    Duplication of Existing Programs. This bill does not 
establish or reauthorize a program of the federal government 
known to be duplicative of another program. Such program was 
not included in any report from the Government Accountability 
Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139 
or identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic 
Assistance published pursuant to the Federal Program 
Information Act (Public Law 95-220, as amended by Public Law 
98-169) as relating to other programs.


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

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing 

                            DISSENTING VIEWS


    On July 26, 2013, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 
issued a Notice of Intent to begin work on a revision to the 
Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas Resource Management Plan (RMP). The 
RMP covers Federal land along the Red River between Texas and 
Oklahoma, where the BLM estimates that the Federal government 
retains interest in approximately 30,000 acres, 23,000 acres of 
which are overlaid by private deeds. There are many overlapping 
claims, missing and unreliable records, and even competing 
claims from both Texas and Oklahoma over the same pieces of 
property. BLM is revising the RMP, which includes a 
comprehensive land survey, in order to clear up all of these 
uncertainties. The agency has to complete the public planning 
process and land survey before it can issue title to claimants.
    Unfortunately, whether intended or not, H.R. 4979, by 
disrupting the planning process, would make it impossible for 
the Interior Department to recognize ownership claims. The bill 
would require the Secretary to recognize, within 120 days, any 
county or state record provided by an individual with a 
property interest in the Red River. This timeline is 
unrealistic and the requirement could lead to the transfer of 
Federal land without fair compensation. Additionally, the bill 
requires BLM to transfer not only the surface estate but also 
the subsurface estate, which is counter to standard practice 
and jeopardizes a long standing agreement between the Federal 
government and the Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche tribes. These 
tribes receive 62.5 percent of any royalty generated for oil 
and gas development along this section of the Red River. If the 
subsurface mineral estate is transferred away, this important 
source of revenue relied on by the tribes could be jeopardized. 
With the long, complicated history and various ownership claims 
along the Red River, BLM has to be allowed to complete its 
planning process and land survey H.R. 4979 would make a 
resolution nearly impossible.
    At markup, the majority amended the bill in an effort to 
address many of the concerns highlighted by the administration. 
While we appreciate the effort to improve the bill, the 
reported bill is still unworkable. The amended text sets up an 
arbitration process for overlapping ownership claims, extends 
the timeline for issuing deeds, and even appears to add 
language to protect certain tribal interests.
    The amended bill adds 60 days to the timeframe for 
approving claims and issuing deeds. This may seem like an 
improvement, but 180 days is still an unrealistic goal that 
could complicate matters even further. The projected completion 
date of 2018 seems like a long time, but considering that there 
have been disputes over ownership in this area for over 200 
years, it makes sense that, in order to get it done right, it 
will take time.
    Furthermore, the dispute resolution process set up by the 
bill presents a variety of problems. The difficulty of 
verifying overlapping ownership claims is something that the 
administration mentioned in their testimony on the bill. there 
are many instances where multiple private deeds overlay a 
single plot of land, and some of these plots of land may in 
fact be wholly private, meaning the Federal government has no 
interest in the land. That is why the survey and land planning 
process must occur before the Secretary can disclaim land or 
issue patents for private land. However, under the bill's 
arbitration process, the BLM could be forced to make a decision 
before knowing if it even has jurisdiction over the land.
    Lastly, as mentioned above, the Federal government has a 
special relationship with several Native American tribes in 
this area, and 62.5 per cent of the royalty revenue from oil 
and gas development is owed to these tribes. The remaining 37.5 
is paid to the state of Oklahoma. This legislation could 
complicate this arrangement and potentially make it impossible 
for the Federal government to fulfill this commitment. We 
cannot support H.R. 4979.

                                   Peter DeFazio,
                                           Ranking Member, Committee on 
                                               Natural Resources.
                                   Rauul Grijalva,
                                           Ranking Member, Subcommittee 
                                               on Public Lands and