(Extensions of Remarks - January 05, 1995)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E54-E55]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                          HON. BILL RICHARDSON

                             of new mexico

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, January 5, 1995
  Mr. RICHARDSON. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduced 
legislation to return nearly 765 acres of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness 
to management by the Taos Pueblo as part of the Blue Lake Wilderness.
  The nearly 765 acre bottleneck track is one of the most sacred sites 
for the Taos Pueblo people: it has had religious significance for these 
people for thousands of years. In fact, the area we call the bottleneck 
is known as the Path of Life Lands to the Pueblo people because it 
contains their most sacred religious lands. Additionally, the Taos 
Pueblo was recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in 
1992 in recognition of its status as one of the last remaining pre-
Columbian civilizations in North America.
  Legislation signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970 returned to the 
Taos Pueblo all lands that had been seized by the Federal Government 
with the exception of the bottleneck tract. Inclusion of the bottleneck 
lands would have decreased the acreage of the adjacent Wheeler Peak 
Wilderness below the legal limit required for wilderness designation so 
the land was not returned to the Pueblo.
  The Wheeler Peak Wilderness has subsequently been expanded several 
times and the transfer of the 764.33 acres of the bottleneck tract 
would not affect the wilderness designation of the Wheeler Peak 
Wilderness. My legislation would end this saga and bring to an end the 
responsibilities of the Federal Government to return lands to the Taos 
  The land transfer to the Pueblo effected by this bill will enable the 
Pueblo to guard against the public intrusions that are presently 
occurring on surrounding Indian lands and sacred sites. These 
intrusions have occurred during sacred religious activities and are 
wholly inappropriate for such an area. Unfortunately, the Pueblo is 
powerless to prevent such intrusions without the return of the land to 
their management and jurisdiction.
  Under the terms of the bill, the bottleneck lands would be used for 
traditional purposes only, such as religious ceremonies, hunting, 
fishing, and as a source of water, forage for domestic livestock, wood, 
timber and other natural resources.
  Enactment of this legislation will not result in the transfer of the 
land out of wilderness status. The Pueblo will manage the land as 
wilderness under strict requirements allowing 
[[Page E55]] only tribal access to the area for the specific 
activities, consistent with the Wilderness Act, which I have just 
  In the past, this legislation has been supported by the entire, 
bipartisan New Mexico congressional delegation and by a broad coalition 
of environmental organizations including the Wilderness Society, the 
Audubon Society and the Sierra Club at the local, State and national 
  This legislation has been passed by the full House in previous 
Congresses, yet never enacted into law. Throughout this period, the 
Taos Pueblo has continued to suffer the indignity of public intrusions 
on their sacred land. It is time to put this long, sad story behind us 
by enacting this legislation. It is time to return the bottleneck to 
the Taos Pueblo people.
  I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the 
aisle and in both Chambers to ensure that this saga is brought to an 
end and this bill is enacted into law in the 104th Congress.
  The full text of the bill follows:

                                H.R. --
       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       (a) Transfer.--The parcel of land described in subsection 
     (b) is hereby transferred without consideration to the 
     Secretary of the Interior to be held in trust for the Pueblo 
     de Taos. Such parcel shall be a part of the Pueblo de Taos 
     Reservation and shall be managed in accordance with section 4 
     of the Act of May 31, 1933 (48 Stat. 108) (as amended, 
     including as amended by Public Law 91-550 (84 Stat. 1437)).
       (b) Land Description.--The parcel of land referred to in 
     subsection (a) is the land that is generally depicted on the 
     map entitled ``Lands transferred to the Pueblo of Taos--
     proposed'' and dated September 1994, comprises 764.33 acres, 
     and is situated within sections 25, 26, 35, and 36, Township 
     27 North, Range 14 East, New Mexico Principal Meridian, 
     within the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, Carson National Forest, 
     Taos County, New Mexico.
       (c) Conforming Boundary Adjustments.--The boundaries of the 
     Carson National Forest and the Wheeler Peak Wilderness are 
     hereby adjusted to reflect the transfer made by subsection 
       (d) Completion of Transfer.--The Congress finds and 
     declares that the lands to be held in trust and to become 
     part of the Pueblo de Taos Reservation under this section 
     complete the transfer effected by section 4 of the Act of May 
     31, 1933 (48 Stat. 108) (as amended, including as amended by 
     Public Law 91-550 (84 Stat. 1437)).