CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 470, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act, as amended, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 470 was introduced on January 22, 2015, by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, which ordered the bill reported, by voice vote, on September 14, 2016.
H.R. 470 provides the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to convey certain land in the Oconee and Chattahoochee National Forests for cash consideration through land exchanges. Specifically, the legislation authorizes the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell or exchange any or all interest of the United States in 30 remote tracts of National Forest System land in Georgia totaling approximately 3,841 acres. Additionally, H.R. 470 authorizes the USDA to reserve any rights-of-way or other rights or interests in land sold or exchanged that is considered necessary for management purposes or to protect the public interest. Finally, the bill prohibits the USDA from selling or exchanging land for less than market value, as determined by an appraisal or through a competitive bid, and requires proceeds to be used for the acquisition of land for national forest purposes in Georgia.
The Chattahoochee National Forest was commissioned by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. In 1959, President Eisenhower proclaimed 96,000 acres of federal lands in Georgia as the Oconee National Forest. The two forests became known as the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests is comprised of 867,000 acres across 26 counties in Georgia. The forests provide outdoor recreation opportunities including thousands of miles of streams and rivers, 850 miles of recreation trails, and dozens of campgrounds and picnic areas.
Within the forest system there remain parcels of land that are disconnected from the core lands of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. These parcels have been identified as suitable land to sell off, and the proceeds of the sale will go into a federal account that can be used only inside the existing boundaries to purchase additional critical properties from willing sellers. According to The Conservation Fund, the acquisition of inholdings within the National Forest can reduce the strains on county budgets, and will allow the U.S. Forest Service to better protect and manage wildlife and habitat within the forest.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “This bill will eliminate federal waste, saving taxpayer money, and provide more opportunity to Georgians from around the state to enjoy our beautiful region. This is a win at both the state and local levels. It’s an economic win, too, that create investment and jobs.”
 See http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/conf/learning/history-culture/?cid=fsm9_029299
 See http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/conf/home
 See Rep. Collins’ Press Release, February 2, 2015
 See Rep. Collins’ Press Release, January 23, 2015
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that because the legislation authorizes the Forest Service to retain and spend any proceeds from sales, the net effect on the federal budget over the 2017-2026 period would be negligible.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.