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Discussions Focus On Water And Environmental Needs, Native American Rights

Floor Speech

Location: Washington D.C.

Discussions Focus On Water And Environmental Needs, Native American Rights

Yesterday, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) met with the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, to discuss important environmental and economic priorities of Congress. At the meeting, Rep. Baca had the opportunity to speak with the Secretary on a variety of important issues ranging from protecting the rights of California's Native American communities, to water conservation, to the need for greater involvement from the Fish and Wildlife Service in the Inland area.

"Today's discussion with Secretary Salazar gave me an opportunity to advocate for the Native American community, and stress the need for greater respect of their right to sovereignty," added Rep. Baca. "Native Americans everywhere must be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness -- and I was pleased to have the chance to address their important concerns regarding land and water issues with the Administration."

During the meeting, Rep. Baca had an opportunity to petition Secretary Salazar on behalf of California's Native American Tribes. In particular, Rep. Baca spoke on the need for greater enforcement of the land and water rights of the tribal entities in the Inland area, including the Soboba, Pechanga, and Morongo band of Indians.

For the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, Rep. Baca spoke on the issue of acquiring rights for additional tribal lands. For the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, he advocated on the great need for established water rights, and for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, he petitioned for the resolution of critical land trust issues. In addition, Rep. Baca participated in discussions on the need for clean water and more flexibility in the Endangered Species Act.

"My meeting with the Secretary also was a great opportunity to talk about the critical environmental concerns affecting Southern California," said Rep. Baca. "Primary among these is the need for clean, safe water for drinking and agricultural purposes. I spoke to the Secretary on the merits of my legislation, H.R. 2316, the Inland Empire Perchlorate Ground Water Plume Assessment Act, and stressed the need for the support of the Environmental Protection Agency and others to help find a realistic solution to the perchlorate problem."

"The meeting also gave me the chance to speak on the need for greater flexibility in the regulations and enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, and petition for more local involvement in the Inland Empire from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," continued Rep. Baca. "Unfortunately, farming and development interests in the Inland area continually struggle with often overly burdensome regulations. The Fish and Wildlife's Service's direct involvement in our area could help to alleviate much of the confusion and economic uncertainty this situation causes."

Rep. Baca has been an active member of the Native American Caucus in the House of Representatives since first coming to Congress in 1999.

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