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108th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                    108-254

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



 
       EASTERN BAND OF CHEROKEE INDIANS LAND EXCHANGE ACT OF 2002

                                _______
                                

 September 3, 2003.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Pombo, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 1409]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill 
(H.R. 1409) to provide for a Federal land exchange for the 
environmental, educational, and cultural benefit of the 
American public and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, 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. 1409 is to provide for a federal land 
exchange for the environmental, educational, and cultural 
benefit of the American public and the Eastern Band of Cherokee 
Indians, and for other purposes.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    H.R. 1409 provides a land exchange between the National 
Park Service and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, whose 
reservation is located in western North Carolina. Land acquired 
by the tribe under this exchange would be used for the 
construction of a new educational campus for its youth.
    Specifically, the bill provides for an exchange of 
approximately 143 acres of public land (called the ``Ravensford 
Tract'') in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for 218 
acres of private land (called the ``Yellow Face Tract'') owned 
by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Ravensford Tract 
would be held in trust and included in the adjoining Cherokee 
reservation. The Yellow Face Tract consists of pristine land 
with high habitat value for certain endangered species, and 
would be preserved as part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which it 
abuts. The Yellow Face Tract has been appraised at a higher 
value than the Ravensford Tract.
    Ancestors of the Eastern Band have lived in an area 
comprising parts of seven eastern states, including land that 
is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The present-day 
tribe consists of those Cherokees who were able to avoid 
forcible removal to Oklahoma over the Trail of Tears.
    Today, the Eastern Band has an educational crisis. Almost 
800 elementary school children on the Reservation attend 
classes in a dilapidated facility which has the capacity for 
only 480 students. The school and its temporary classrooms are 
located at a dangerous highway intersection in downtown 
Cherokee and parts of it have been condemned as unsafe.
    At the Committee hearing on H.R. 1409, Principal Chief Leon 
Jones testified the most important issue facing the Eastern 
Band of Cherokee is the education of their children. 
Legislation to accomplish this land exchange is necessary for 
the tribe to construct a new school. Most of the tribe's 
existing reservation is mountainous, and the Ravensford Tract 
has been identified by the tribe as being ideally suited for 
the construction of a new, safe educational campus. The terrain 
is flat, accessible, and located away from the dangerous 
intersection where the existing school is situated. With an 
existing road, the site formerly hosted a lumber mill.
    The bill restricts development on the Ravensford Tract to 
that necessary for supporting school facilities. The Eastern 
Band plans to construct on the Ravensford Tract a new 
educational campus emphasizing traditional Cherokee values, 
including the preservation of the natural environment. Gaming 
on the property is specifically prohibited. Consistent with the 
Eastern Band's conservation ethic, the bill contains language 
requiring the Park Service and the tribe to develop mutually 
agreed upon standards for the construction of the school so 
that it meets the tribe's educational needs while any adverse 
impacts on natural or cultural resources are mitigated.
    Though the tribe has already spent over $1.5 million in 
studies and preparation for the land exchange, an environmental 
impact statement process undertaken by the National Park 
Service regarding the land exchange has been too lengthy, and 
there are major concerns as to its adequacy.
    Cherokee student Cory Blankenship said before the Resources 
Committee in a hearing on H.R. 1409, ``In the last decade, over 
3.5 million acres nationwide have been placed under the 
protection of the National Park Service. We are asking only for 
143 acres to help us build our schools and preserve our 
culture.''
    On a historical note, the Cherokee people can stake a moral 
claim to the Ravensford Tract. In the 1940s, the parcel was 
supposed to be conveyed to the Cherokee as part of a deal in 
which the Indians gave up land so the government could build 
the Blue Ridge Parkway through their Reservation. But the 
Congress, for reasons that are unclear, deleted this part of 
the deal after it was agreed to.
    In managing public lands, Congress must weigh impacts of 
proposed land exchanges on the lands involved and the purposes 
served. In this case, there is almost no comparison. The 
benefit to the Eastern Band's children of what is the only 
feasible location for a new school campus far outweighs the 
impact to the public's interest in retaining the Ravensford 
Tract in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, the 
National Park System as a whole gains a net benefit from the 
addition of the larger, pristine Yellow Face Tract to the Blue 
Ridge Parkway.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 1409 was introduced on March 20, 2003, by Congressman 
Charles Taylor (R-NC). The bill was referred to the Committee 
on Resources. On June 18, 2003, the Full Committee held a 
hearing on the bill. On July 15, 2003, the Full Resources 
Committee met to consider the bill. No amendments were offered 
and the bill was favorably reported to the House of 
Representatives by voice vote.

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

                   CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT

    Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United 
States grants Congress the authority to enact this bill.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII

    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) 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)(3)(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.
    2. 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.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. This bill does 
not authorize funding and therefore, clause 3(c)(4) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives does not 
apply.
    4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. 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:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                   Washington, DC, August 27, 2003.
Hon. Richard Pombo,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1409, the Eastern 
Band of Cherokee Indians Land Exchange Act of 2002.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Deborah Reis.
            Sincerely,
                                       Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 1409--Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Land Exchange Act of 2002

    H.R. 1409 would require the National Park Service (NPS) to 
exchange 143 acres of land (known as the Ravensford tract) 
within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue 
Ridge Parkway for a 218-acre parcel (Yellow Face tract) owned 
by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. The bill also 
would authorize the NPS to execute cooperative agreements with 
the band to facilitate management of the Ravensford tract by 
providing training on resources preservation and 
interpretation.
    CBO estimates that the federal government would not incur 
any significant cost to carry out the required land exchange, 
implement cooperative agreements with the Eastern Band of 
Cherokee Indians, or develop or administer the 218-acre 
addition to the park. We further estimate that enactment of the 
bill would not affect revenues or direct spending. For this 
estimate, CBO assumes that the properties to be exchanged would 
be determined by NPS to be roughly equal in value (less than 
$700,000) although final appraisals of the two tracts have not 
been approved by the NPS. In any event, we do not expect that 
any equalization payments would be made to complete the land 
exchange. This estimate is based on information provided by the 
NPS and the Eastern Band of Cherokees.
    H.R. 1409 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments. 
This exchange would benefit the tribe, and any costs they would 
incur to comply with conditions included in the bill would be 
voluntary.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Deborah Reis. 
This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                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.

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

           H.R. 1409--Eastern Band of Cherokee Land Exchange

    The history of the Cherokee people is one of amazing 
triumph against so many odds. It is a story of broken treaties 
and stolen lands. It is the story of a great Indian nation 
hunted by the U.S. Cavalry, split at the seams, and forced 
either to escape to the mountains or to trudge along on a death 
march to a strange land.
    Between 1700 and 1838 the Cherokee Nation lost some 100,000 
square miles of original territory to settlements of Europeans 
moving to this land. Yet those who were able to escape the 
Trail of Tears and live in the mountains of North Carolina 
stayed together and rebuilt their nation. Today the Eastern 
Band of Cherokee Indians is a vibrant Indian tribe with over 
12,500 enrolled members. By all accounts, the Band is 
successful and hard working. The Band has asked Congress to 
approve a land swap so that it may have the space needed to 
build schools to better educate their children. I have nothing 
but respect for the Eastern Band and its admirable goals, 
however, at this time I must object to the further 
consideration of H.R. 1409.
    There is no excuse for the condition of the education 
facilities found on many Indian reservations across this 
country. Far too often, Native Americans are forced to endure 
substandard housing, medical facilities and educational 
facilities that many Americans would find shocking.
    However, it is not clear to me that carving out large 
chunks from the middle of our national parks, as H.R. 1409 
would have us do, is the best solution to this problem. This 
legislation will create a 143-acre hole in the middle of the 
most visited national park in America.
    Once the large construction project planned for this site 
is completed, visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park 
will no longer see a sprawling, green, undeveloped valley. 
Rather, they will see three massive buildings, roads, utility 
lines, and as many as six athletic fields, each with its own 
lighting system that will light up what used to be a dark night 
sky.
    While it is not my contention that the children of the 
Eastern Band of Cherokee do not deserve such a beautiful and 
large educational complex, is the middle of a National Park 
really the only place it can be built?
    Two groups, the National Park Service and a coalition of 
non-profit environmental groups are exploring this very 
question. The NPS is putting the finishing touches on an 
Environmental Impact Statement that will address the obvious 
impacts this planned construction will have on the Park's 
resources as well as the possibility of building the schools 
elsewhere.
    The non-profit groups have also publicly pledged to work 
with the Tribe to find an alternative site.
    And yet we are moving full steam ahead with this 
legislation, cutting off the NEPA process and abandoning any 
attempt to find a way to provide good schools for the Tribe 
without impacting a national treasure.
    Such a move raises a variety of very serious concerns, not 
the least of which is the terrible precedent this legislation 
will set. I had hoped to work with the sponsor and the Tribe to 
address these concerns but have not received much cooperation.
    Let me be clear that this Committee is not always so eager 
to jump to give land back to an Indian tribe in need. We were 
scheduled to mark up another bill the day H.R. 1409 was 
considered to distribute Indian Claims Commission judgment 
funds to the Western Shoshone Indians. The problem is that many 
Western Shoshone want their land back and have been fighting to 
regain at least some of their lost land for decades. That bill 
does not get them one step closer to that goal.
    Is the need for land by the Western Shoshone to house their 
members from the desert sun or eke out a living grazing their 
cattle any less valid than the needs of the Eastern Band of 
Cherokee?
    Of course not, but the land taken from the Western Shoshone 
is known to be extremely valuable to mining companies. 
Estimates put mining receipts from gold and other minerals in 
the tens of billions since the 1960's.
    Will this Committee act to return that kind of value back 
to the Native Americans it was taken from? These 
inconsistencies are at least some of the issues that need to be 
resolved before either of these bills go before the full House 
for consideration.
    Legislation of this magnitude, which will impact the most 
visited national park in the country in such a powerful and 
potentially negative way, must be considered very carefully.
    At this point, I do not support the inclusion of H.R. 1409 
on the House Suspension Calendar. It is my hope that, prior to 
any consideration of the bill on the House floor, some of the 
very real concerns with this bill will be addressed and that a 
solution which works both for the Tribe and the Park could be 
found.
    I look forward to continuing to work with the Tribe and 
with the sponsor of this legislation.

                                                  Nick J. Rahall II