CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 3954 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on March 17, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL) on October 28, 2009. The Committee on Agriculture ordered the bill to be reported by voice vote on March 3, 2010.
H.R. 3954 would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to release, convey, and quitclaim to the State of Florida, without monetary consideration, all interest of the U.S. in and to those lands within or adjacent to the Blackwater River and Withlacoochee State Forests that were conveyed to the State under the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act or under any other law. The bill would require the State to cover or reimburse the Secretary for reasonable costs incurred to make the conveyances and bars the Secretary from seeking reimbursement for administrative overhead costs.
H.R. 3954 would require the State to agree that all net proceeds from any sale, exchange, or other disposition of the real property subject to deed restrictions be used by the State for the acquisition of lands or interests within or adjacent to units of Florida's forest and park systems; to address and resolve boundary encroachments for the affected State forests; and to indemnify and hold the U.S. harmless with regard to any boundary disputes related to any released parcel.
The bill also provides for an interchange of certain State lands and National Forest System lands in the Ocala and Apalachicola National Forests in Florida.
Finally, the bill would authorize the Secretary to convey by sale or exchange tract W-1979 within Leon County, Florida.
According to the legislation's findings, certain lands in Florida were conveyed by the U.S. to the State under the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act and now are part of the Blackwater River and Withlacoochee State Forests. The lands were conveyed to the State subject to deed restrictions that the lands could be only used for public purposes. The deed restrictions impede the ability of the State to remedy boundary and encroachment problems involving the lands. The release of the deed restrictions by the Secretary of Agriculture will further the purposes for which the lands are being managed and will alleviate future federal responsibilities with respect to the lands.
Additionally, there are intermingled federal and State lands within units of the National Forest System in Florida that are of comparable quantity and quality and of approximately equal value. Interchanging these lands would be in the public interest by facilitating more efficient public land management.
The Congressional Budget Office has not yet produced a cost estimate for H.R. 3954.