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 						    Calendar No. 87

115th Congress}                                            { Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session  }                                            { 115-69


======================================================================
 
  ELKHORN RANCH AND WHITE RIVER NATIONAL FOREST CONVEYANCE ACT OF 2017

                                _______
                                

                  May 16, 2017.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

        Ms. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural 
                   Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 698]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (H.R. 698) to require a land conveyance 
involving the Elkhorn Ranch and the White River National Forest 
in the State of Colorado, and for other purposes, having 
considered the same, reports favorably thereon without 
amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.

                                PURPOSE

    The purpose of H.R. 698 is to require a land conveyance by 
the Secretary of Agriculture involving the Elkhorn Ranch and 
the White River National Forest in the State of Colorado.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    Beginning in 1908, three families homesteaded near present-
day Rifle, Colorado, and for decades legally owned portions of 
the 148 acres identified in this bill. Shortly before the 
acreage was originally patented into private ownership, the 
General Land Office placed the homesteads in Section 18 with 
east-west fence lines, which conform to the present-day fence 
lines. In 1949, a new government survey was completed for the 
area that placed the boundary line at an angle rather than on a 
true east-west line. This resurvey led to the inclusion of 148 
acres in the White River National Forest rather than in private 
ownership. The landowners were never contacted concerning the 
resurvey and were unaware that their title to the land had been 
called into question. Since that time, the property, commonly 
called ``Elkhorn Ranch'' has changed hands several times, most 
recently in 1998 when the Gordman-Leverich Partnership 
purchased the ranch.
    In 2002, the boundary and title discrepancy came to light. 
The Surveyor of the White River National Forest began to 
examine the conflicting surveys and issued a report in 2014, 
``Short Summary of Boundary Status--Beaver Creek; Sections 18 
and 19, T. 7 S. R. 93 W., 6th PM.,'' confirming that the 
original patents were based on a proper survey. The report 
recommended a legislative boundary adjustment to correct the 
survey discrepancy and return the acreage to the rightful 
private landowner.
    The Bureau of Land Management issued Federal oil and gas 
lease COC-75070 in 2011. This lease includes part of Elkhorn 
Ranch. H.R. 698 recognizes the lease as a valid existing right 
and reserves to the United States the right to collect rent and 
royalty payments from this lease.
    Since 1909, the law has guaranteed that resurveys are not 
to ``impair the bona fide rights or claims of any claimant, 
entryman, or owner of lands affected by such resurvey or 
retracement'' (43 U.S.C. 772). The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) 
has never managed the 148-acre parcel as national forest system 
land. For decades, the landowners have paid property taxes on 
the land, made improvements to it, and used it for agricultural 
and ranching purposes. The parcel is currently fenced as part 
of the ranch and is occupied by stock ponds, roads, and other 
improvements.
    By transferring the 148-acre parcel to Gordman-Leverich 
Partnership, H.R. 698 would correct a long-standing survey 
discrepancy and provide a free and clear title to the land 
subject to valid, existing rights, including the existing 
Federal oil and gas lease.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    H.R. 698 was introduced by Representative Tipton on January 
24, 2017. H.R. 698 passed the House by voice vote on February 
6, 2017, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and 
Natural Resources on February 7, 2017.
    A companion measure, S. 286, was introduced by Senators 
Gardner and Bennet on February 2, 2017.
    In the 114th Congress, similar legislation, H.R. 1554, was 
introduced by Representatives Tipton and Polis on March 23, 
2015. On June 16, 2015, the House Natural Resources 
Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing on H.R. 1554, and 
the Natural Resources Committee ordered the bill reported on 
July 9, 2015 (H. Rept. 114-251). The House of Representatives 
passed H.R. 1554 by a voice vote on September 16, 2015.
    In the Senate, an identical companion bill, S. 1942, was 
introduced by Senator Gardner on August 5, 2015. Senator Bennet 
was a cosponsor. The Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and 
Mining held a hearing on H.R. 1554 and S. 1942 on October 8, 
2015. On November 19, 2015, the Committee on Energy and Natural 
Resources met in open business session and ordered both H.R. 
1554 and S. 1942 favorably reported without amendment (S. Rept. 
114-195).
    The measure was included in S. Amendment 3234, which the 
Senate agreed to on April 19, 2016, as an amendment to S. 2012, 
the Energy Policy and Modernization Act of 2016, which the 
Senate passed, as amended, on April 20, 2016.
    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in open 
business session on March 30, 2017, and ordered H.R. 698 and S. 
289 favorably reported.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in 
open business session on March 30, 2017, by a voice vote of a 
quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass H.R. 698.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    Section 1 contains the short title, ``Elkhorn Ranch and 
White River National Forest Conveyance Act of 2017.''
    Section 2(a) conveys approximately 148 acres of Federal 
land to the Gordman-Leverich Partnership.
    Subsection (b) subjects the conveyance to valid existing 
rights, including oil and gas lease COC-75070, and reserves for 
the United States the right to collect rent and royalty 
payments on existing oil and gas leases.
    Subsection (c) makes clear that the conveyance does not 
modify the existing boundaries of the White River National 
Forest or Sections 18 and 19 of Township 7 South.
    Subsection (d) specifies that the conveyance should be 
completed within 180 days following enactment of the Act, and 
that all costs related to surveying, platting, or other 
activities to process the conveyance shall be paid by the 
Gordman-Leverich Partnership.

                   COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS

    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:
    H.R. 698 would require the Forest Service to convey 148 
acres of federal lands in Colorado to a private entity. Under 
the act, the federal government would retain the right to 
collect rent and royalty payments from an existing oil and gas 
lease on those lands; however, if that lease expires, the 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would not be allowed to offer 
the parcel for lease. Because CBO expects that enacting the 
legislation could reduce offsetting receipts, which are treated 
as reductions in direct spending, from bonus bids over the next 
10 years, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. However, we estimate 
that net bonus bids from the affected parcel would total less 
than $500,000 over that period. Enacting the legislation would 
not affect revenues.
    CBO estimates that enacting the legislation would not 
increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of 
the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    In 2012, BLM issued a federal oil and gas lease on a 
portion of the affected lands. If the firm holding that lease 
takes certain steps to begin producing oil and gas before the 
lease is set to expire in 2022, the firm would retain the lease 
until production ended. Under current law and under the act, 
the federal government would collect rent and any royalties 
generated from oil and gas produced on that lease, and 49 
percent of those proceeds would be paid to the state of 
Colorado. In that case, enacting the legislation would have no 
effect on direct spending.
    If the lease expires in 2022, BLM could offer the parcel 
for lease after that date under current law. However, the 
agency could not offer the affected parcel for lease under the 
act. Because CBO has no basis for determining how the relevant 
parties would respond if the lease were allowed to expire, our 
estimate reflects a point within a range of possible outcomes. 
Based on the amount paid for the lease in 2012 ($335,000), CBO 
estimates that enacting the legislation would reduce receipts 
by less than $500,000 over the 2022-2027 period.
    H.R. 698 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
    On April 7, 2017, CBO transmitted a cost estimate for S. 
286, the Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest 
Conveyance Act of 2017, as ordered reported by the Senate 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on March 30, 2017. 
H.R. 698 and S. 286 are similar and CBO's cost estimate for 
each piece of legislation is the same.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Jeff LaFave. The 
estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out H.R. 698. The bill is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of H.R. 698, as ordered reported.

                   CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED SPENDING

    H.R. 698, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    Because H.R. 698 is similar to legislation considered by 
the Committee in the 114th Congress, the Committee did not 
request Executive Agency views. The testimony provided by the 
USFS at the hearing before the Subcommittee on Public Lands, 
Forests, and Mining on October 8, 2015, follows:

 Statement of Glenn Casamassa, Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest 
      System, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for 
the opportunity to present the views of the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (USDA) regarding S. 1295, S. 1448, S. 1941, and S. 
1942.


s. 1942, the ``elkhorn ranch and white river national forest conveyance 
                    act land exchange act of 2015''


    S. 1942 would direct the conveyance of a 148 acre parcel of 
National Forest System land to the Gordman-Leverich 
Partnership. The parcel is located within the White River 
National Forest.
    While the Administration has serious reservations about the 
use of Federal lands to compensate a private landowner, 
acknowledging the unusual circumstances in this specific case, 
the Department does not oppose S. 1942. The bill would resolve 
a long standing title issue associated with the property.
    A dependent resurvey, which is a survey dependent upon 
prior surveys of record, was completed in 1949, and established 
a property monument approximately 2,100 feet from the corner, 
relied upon by the original homesteaders. This meant that this 
parcel of national forest land had been managed as private 
land. 43 U.S.C. 772, enacted in 1909, provided for such 
resurveys and guaranteed that the bona fide rights of 
landowners would be protected.
    Because this land survey discrepancy only came to light 
within the past 15 years, and because the parcel has never been 
managed as National Forest, protection of the bona fide rights 
of the landowners is appropriate. Resolution of this title 
issue will end a long-standing title claim in an efficient, 
fair manner.
    This concludes my remarks. I would be happy to answer any 
questions. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of Rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by the bill as ordered 
reported.

                                  [all]