Report text available as:

  • TXT
  • PDF   (PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip ?
114th Congress}                                         { Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session  }                                         { 114-257

======================================================================

 
  ELKHORN RANCH AND WHITE RIVER NATIONAL FOREST CONVEYANCE ACT OF 2015

                                _______
                                

 September 9, 2015.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

 Mr. Bishop of Utah, from the Committee on Natural Resources, submitted 
                             the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 1554]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 1554) to require a land conveyance involving the 
Elkhorn Ranch and the White River National Forest in the State 
of Colorado, 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. 1554 is to require a land conveyance 
involving the Elkhorn Ranch and the White River National Forest 
in the State of Colorado.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    This legislation would correct a discrepancy in the survey 
of 148 acres in Garfield County, Colorado, currently known as 
Elkhorn Ranch, and require the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to 
convey by patent the area to the Gordman-Leverich Partnership 
(GLP).
    In 1908, three families began homesteading portions of the 
parcel after it was patented and conveyed into private 
ownership by the federal government. The area, which is 
directly north of the boundary of the White River National 
Forest (WRNF), has been owned by several successors since it 
was originally patented and was purchased by GLP in 1998. Since 
it was originally homesteaded, Elkhorn Ranch has been improved 
and used by patentees and their successors for ranching and 
agricultural purposes. Today seven stock ponds, two developed 
springs, fences, and roads exist on the property.
    Shortly before the parcel was originally patented, the 
General Land Office confirmed with the original patentees that 
their homesteads were located in Section 18 with east-west 
fence lines, which conforms to present fence lines. A 
subsequent survey conducted in 1949, which portrayed the 
southern-most boundary of the area on an angle rather than a 
true east-west line, resulted in the inclusion of the 148 acres 
in the boundaries of the WRNF and called into question the true 
ownership of the acreage. The patentees were not notified of 
this conflicting survey after its completion and the USFS first 
learned of the discrepancy in 2002.
    Beginning in 2002, the Surveyor of the WRNF began to 
closely examine the conflicting surveys. In 2014, the Surveyor 
issued a report indicating that the original patents were based 
on a proper survey and recommended a ``legislative boundary 
correction protecting bona fide rights'' in order to correct 
the survey discrepancy and ensure that the area is re-patented 
to the appropriate private landowner.\1\ The Garfield County 
Surveyor agreed with the USFS' conclusion and 
recommendations.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\Bontrager, Wyman M. Professional Licensed Surveyor 29408, Forest 
Land Surveyor, White River National Forest Service, ``Short Summary of 
Boundary Status--Beaver Creek; Sections 18 and 19, T. 7 S. R. 93 W., 
6th PM.'' February 19, 2014.
    \2\Letter from Scott E. Aibner, P.L.S. Garfield County Surveyor to 
Andy Wiessner, Western Land Group. May 7, 2104.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As a result of the Surveyor's 2014 report, the Forest 
Supervisor of the WRNF recommended that the area be ``confirmed 
in the successors in interest to the original patentees'' and 
admitted that ``the White River National Forest does not 
currently manage the 148 acres as National Forest land.''\3\ 
The Forest Supervisor has also stated that reaffirming the land 
as private would not ``be counter to the Forest Land Management 
Plan . . . Nor would such conveyance have any meaningful impact 
on the goals that Congress intended to impose when it 
designated the boundaries of the White River National 
Forest.''\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\Letter from Scott G. Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor, White 
River National Forest, to Senator Mark Udall. March 25, 2014.
    \4\Letter from Don G. Carroll, Acting Forest Supervisor, White 
River National Forest to John Case, Esq. October 20, 2004.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In 2011, the Bureau of Land Management issued Federal oil 
and gas lease COC-75070, which overlaps a portion of the 
Elkhorn Ranch. The bill would maintain the valid existing 
rights of the leaseholder and would provide the United States 
the continued right to collect rent and royalty payments from 
this lease.
    The conveyance does not modify the exterior boundary of the 
WRNF, and GLP would be required to pay for all costs related to 
any survey, platting, legal description, or other activities 
carried out to prepare and issue the patent.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 1554 was introduced on March 3, 2015, by Congressman 
Scott R. Tipton (R-CO). The bill was referred to the Committee 
on Natural Resources, and within the Committee to the 
Subcommittee on Federal Lands. The Subcommittee had a hearing 
on the bill on June 16, 2015. On July 8, 2015, the Natural 
Resources Committee met to consider the bill. The Subcommittee 
was discharged by unanimous consent. No amendments were offered 
and the bill was ordered favorably reported to the House of 
Representatives by unanimous consent on July 9, 2015.

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

                    COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII

    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 
received the following cost estimate for this bill from the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office:

H.R. 1554--Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act 
        of 2015

    H.R. 1554 would require the Forest Service to convey 148 
acres of federal lands in Colorado to a private entity. Under 
the bill, the federal government would retain the right to 
collect rent and royalty payments from an existing oil and gas 
lease on those lands; however, if that lease expires, the 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would not be allowed to offer 
the parcel for lease. Because CBO expects that enacting the 
bill could reduce offsetting receipts, which are treated as 
reductions in direct spending, from bonus bids over the next 10 
years, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. However, we estimate 
that net bonus bids from the affected parcel would total less 
than $500,000 over that period. Enacting the bill would not 
affect revenues.
    In 2012, BLM issued a federal oil and gas lease on a 
portion of the affected lands. If the firm holding that lease 
takes certain steps to begin producing oil and gas before the 
lease is set to expire in 2022, the firm would retain the lease 
until production ended. Under current law and under the bill, 
the federal government would collect rent and any royalties 
generated from oil and gas produced on that lease, and 49 
percent of those proceeds would be paid to the state of 
Colorado In that case, enacting the bill would have no effect 
on direct spending.
    If the lease expires in 2022, BLM could offer the parcel 
for lease after that date under current law. However, the 
agency could not offer the affected parcel for lease under the 
bill. Because CBO has no basis for determining how the relevant 
parties would respond if the lease were allowed to expire, our 
estimate reflects a point within a range of possible outcomes. 
Based on the amount paid for the lease in 2012 ($335,000), CBO 
estimates that enacting the bill would reduce receipts by less 
than $500,000 over the 2022-2025 period.
    H.R. 1554 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
    The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Ben 
Christopher and Jeff LaFave. The estimate was approved by H. 
Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy Assistant Director for Budget 
Analysis.
    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. The Congressional 
Budget Office estimates that ``enacting the bill would reduce 
receipts by less than $500,000 over the 2022-2025 period'' 
owing to the possibility that a bonus bid might not be possible 
if the existing oil and gas lease expires in 2022 and is sold 
again.
    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 require a land conveyance 
involving the Elkhorn Ranch and the White River National Forest 
in the State of Colorado.

                           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.

                PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW

    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 
law.

                                  [all]