WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Scott Tipton’s (CO-03) Protection and Transparency for Adjacent Landowners Act (H.R. 6682), a bill to provide transparency and certainty for private landowners during a federal land acquisition, reclassification or resurvey, received a hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands.
During the subcommittee’s hearing on H.R. 6682, Congressman Tipton testified on the importance of this legislation for all landowners in the West.
Citing the 2014 testimony of a rancher from New Mexico on the impact Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquisitions had on the value of his family’s ranch, Tipton explained that too often private landowners do not have the opportunity to take action to protect their livelihoods because they are not notified when land adjacent to theirs is being acquired by the federal government.
“It is critical that the federal government provide private landowners with the opportunity to take action to protect their livelihoods when their land is at risk of being devalued,” said Tipton. “In order to take action, private landowners must be notified when the federal government is in the process of acquiring land that is adjacent to theirs.”
H.R. 6682 would require the BLM and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to provide advance written notice to each owner of land that is adjacent to a parcel of land that is to be acquired by the agency.
Tipton also spoke of the need to protect landowners from mistakes the federal government made on historic land surveys, citing an instance in Mesa County, Colorado, where a BLM resurvey resulted in the reclassification of land, originally thought to be owned by a private landowner, as federal land.
“The BLM charged the individual with trespassing and illegal removal of sand and gravel, which resulted in a fine of over $250,000,” said Tipton. “Western landowners should not be punished for mistakes originally made by the federal government.”
Under H.R. 6682, if an agency determines that the property that was previously believed to be private property should be reclassified as federal land, the private landowner would have the right of first refusal to purchase the land for fair market value, or be reimbursed for the fair market value of any significant improvements they made to the land. Additionally, the private landowner may not be charged with trespassing unless they use the property after they had knowledge that the land was owned by the federal government.