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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


By Mr. KYL (for himself and Mr. MCCAIN):

S. 1341. A bill to provide for the exchange of certain Bureau of Land Management land in Pima County, Arizona, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, today I am pleased to be joined by Senator McCain to introduce the Las Cienegas Enhancement and Saguaro National Park Boundary Adjustment Act of 2007. This legislation directs a land exchange between the Bureau of Land Management, BLM, and the Las Cienegas Conservation, LLC in southeastern Arizona. A similar bill was introduced last year, and it passed the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the Senate was unable to pass it before the session ended.

We can turn this disappointment into a success. The bill we introduce today adds to the exchange a highly sought after private parcel, the ``Bloom Property.'' The Bloom Property would be added to Saguaro National Park. State and local officials, conservationists, and other stakeholders have worked together to include the Bloom Property in this bill and to structure an exchange that is fair and in the public interest.

Let me explain the details of the exchange. The land to be transferred out of Federal ownership, approximately 1,280 acres, is referred to as the ``Sahuarita property.'' This property is BLM-managed land south of Tucson near Corona de Tucson. The land is low-lying Sonoran desert and has been identified for disposal by the BLM through its land-use planning process.

The private land to be brought into Federal ownership consists of two parcels. The first parcel is approximately 2,392 acres of land referred to as the ``Empirita-Simonson property.'' This property lies north of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area managed by the BLM. The Empirita-Simonson property lies within the ``Sonoita Valley Acquisition Planning District'' established by Public Law 106-538, which designated the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. The act directed the Department of the Interior to acquire lands from willing sellers within the planning district for inclusion within the conservation area. The idea was to further protect lands with important resource values for which the national conservation area was designated.

The second parcel, the Bloom Property, is approximately 160 acres of land that was identified for inclusion in the Saguaro National Park during a boundary study conducted by the National Park Service in 1993. In 1994, using the data from the study, Congress enacted legislation expanding the park and changed Saguaro's designation from monument to park. At that time, the Bloom Property did not have a willing seller. I am pleased to say circumstances have changed, and we are able to include it in this exchange. The Bloom Property, which lies just south of the Sweetwater Trail in Saguaro Park West, is a prime example of Sonoran desert important to maintain corridors for wildlife like the mountain lion.

Although this bill is centered on the land exchange I just described, it also accomplishes two other important objectives: addressing water withdrawals at Cienegas Creek and providing road access to a popular recreation destination, the Whetstone Mountains controlled by the Forest Service.

Let's talk about water. Arizonans understand that protecting our water supply is crucial to the State's future. For this reason, we continually seek ways to promote responsible use of our limited water supply. This bill promotes responsible use. There is a prior claim to a well site on the private land that will be exchanged. That prior claim would allow a developer to withdraw 1,600 acre-feet of water a year. Pima County and the community at large are concerned about the future of Cienegas Creek and the entire riparian area if these water withdrawals occur.

To address this concern, the land exchange is conditioned on Las Cienegas Conservation, LLC conveying the well site to Pima County and relinquishing those water rights it controls. The net result is a water savings of 1,050 acre-feet per year. This is a significant benefit to this riparian area.

Overall, this bill allows us to accomplish important environmental and conservation objectives while managing our development. It is a bill with broad support that includes Pima County, the city of Tucson, and many others. I urge my colleagues to work with me to approve this legislation at the earliest possible date.


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