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Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the time and her teamwork on this public lands initiative.
But I am very frustrated that it even is necessary for us to re-introduce this legislation. It shouldn't take years and an act of Congress to right a wrong. Last year, the House overwhelmingly passed this bill by a vote count of 421-1. Unfortunately, it was the victim of partisan gridlock in the United States Senate and was not sent to the President before the end of the 112th Congress.
I see this initiative as unfinished business from the last Congress; and I hope, together, we can get this across the finish line very quickly this year.
H.R. 862 is a commonsense solution to an incomprehensible Federal land situation in northern Arizona. In 1960, the Federal Government conducted a survey in which several acres of the United States Forest Service land were misidentified as private property.
It was not until 2007, when the Federal Government contracted another private survey, that the mistakes were realized, and the residents of the Mountainaire neighborhood were informed of these errors.
Until the 2007 survey, many of these residents have maintained these parcels and developed them as their own for years and, in some cases, decades. In essence, the Federal Government seized lands the residents had maintained, developed, and paid taxes on for years.
Questions associated with the land ownership have plummeted property values in the neighborhood and prevented a number of owners from selling their homes. On some of those parcels, the revised boundary goes practically through portions of the residents' homes or backyards.
To fix the untenable situation, we reintroduced H.R. 862. The bill simply authorizes the Forest Service to convey all rights, titles, and interests to approximately 2.67 acres of the Coconino National Forest to the homeowners for a small fee, using an estimation process Congress utilized in another land exchange in the same northern Arizona county from the 109th Congress, Public Law No. 109-110.
The Forest Service does not want to own these people's living rooms, and the property owners certainly do not want to share their homes or their yards with the Forest Service. This bill is a no-brainer, reported out of the Natural Resources Committee by unanimous consent.
I encourage my colleagues to vote in favor of this legislation and relieve some northern Arizonans of this financially burdensome situation.
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