Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 862, the Coconino National Forest Land Conveyance Act, by unanimous consent.
For Immediate Release
Date: May 22, 2014
Contact: Russell Solomon
Rep. Gosar Praises Passage of H.R. 862, the Coconino National Forest Land Conveyance Act
Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 862, the Coconino National Forest Land Conveyance Act, by unanimous consent:
"I was thrilled to hear the Senate passed H.R. 862 today and I am hopeful it will be signed into law within a few days. As the Slide Fire encroaches on their homes, I hope this legislation provides some positive news and added certainty at this very difficult time for homeowners in the Mountainaire community.
"The Forest Service doesn't want to own these people's living rooms and the property owners certainly don't want to share their homes or yards with the Forest Service. This bill is a no brainer.
"As we enter another dangerous fire season, Congress and the federal government must do more to prevent dangerous wildfires before they start. To that end, I would also encourage passage of my forest health bill, the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013, which provides the tools to proactively treat our forests, improve public safety, and save taxpayer money by encouraging federal land management agencies to focus resources on hazardous fuel reduction and thinning as opposed to spending billions of dollars on fire suppression.
During the 112th Congress, Rep. Gosar's Mountainaire Relief Bill (H.R. 1038) successfully passed the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time by a vote of 421 to 1. Though the lands in question are no longer in his district due to redistricting, Rep. Gosar continued to play an integral role in passing this critical legislation. He was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 862 and worked with Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick to move this legislation through the House in the 113th Congress.
This week, the "Slide Fire" that started near Sedona, Arizona quickly spread to encompass nearly 4,800 acres. This dangerous wildfire is encroaching on the Mountanaire community, endangering residents and threatening massive destruction of property. The Slide Fire has brought about new urgency for passage of this legislation as homeowners were told that, due to the land dispute, they will not be able to rebuild their homes if they were to be destroyed by the fire.
In November 2007, the federal government determined that a privately contracted survey of the Mountainaire neighborhood, completed in 1961, misidentified several acres of United States Forest Service (USFS) land as private property. Until then, many of these residents have maintained these parcels and developed them as their own for years, and in some cases decades. On some of those parcels, the revised boundary now goes through portions of these residents’ homes and backyards. The boundary discrepancy impacts 26 lots and 27 property owners in the Mountainaire Subdivision. The entire encroachment for all lots involves a total land area of 2.5 to 3 acres.
This legislation, while affecting a small amount of land, is vital to the livelihood of resident of the Mountainaire neighborhood in Coconino County. Questions associated with the land ownership have also caused property values to decline in the neighborhood and have prevented a number of owners from selling their homes. This land was erroneously included in the Coconino National Forest due to an incorrect survey. On some of those parcels, the revised boundary now literally goes through portions of these residents’ homes and backyards.