SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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HEARING ON H.R. 2438, AND H.R. 1995
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTO ENCOURAGE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF APPROPRIATE TRAILS ON ABANDONED RAILROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY, WHILE ENSURING THE PROTECTION OF CERTAIN REVERSIONARY PROPERTY RIGHTS
TO PROVIDE FOR THE PROTECTION OF FARMLAND AT THE POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
OCTOBER 30, 1997, WASHINGTON, DC
Serial No. 10576
Printed for the use of the Committee on Resources
HEARING ON H.R. 2438, AND H.R. 1995
HEARING ON H.R. 2438, AND H.R. 1995
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS
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COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
TO ENCOURAGE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF APPROPRIATE TRAILS ON ABANDONED RAILROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY, WHILE ENSURING THE PROTECTION OF CERTAIN REVERSIONARY PROPERTY RIGHTS
TO PROVIDE FOR THE PROTECTION OF FARMLAND AT THE POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
OCTOBER 30, 1997, WASHINGTON, DC
Serial No. 10576
Printed for the use of the Committee on Resources
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COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
KEN CALVERT, California
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
LINDA SMITH, Washington
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN SHADEGG, Arizona
JOHN E. ENSIGN, Nevada
ROBERT F. SMITH, Oregon
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCKEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MICHAEL D. CRAPO, Idaho
GEORGE MILLER, California
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
SAM FARR, California
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ADAM SMITH, Washington
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
LLOYD A. JONES, Chief of Staff
ELIZABETH MEGGINSON, Chief Counsel
CHRISTINE KENNEDY, Chief Clerk/Administrator
JOHN LAWRENCE, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah, Chairman
ELTON, GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
LINDA SMITH, Washington
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
JOHN B. SHADEGG, Arizona
JOHN E. ENSIGN, Nevada
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCROBERT F. SMITH, Oregon
RICK HILL, Montana
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
ALLEN FREEMYER, Counsel
P. DANIEL SMITH, Professional Staff
LIZ BIRNBAUM, Democratic Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held October 30, 1997
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Statements of Members:
Boxer, Hon. Barbara, a Senator in Congress from the State of California, prepared statement of
Christian-Green, Hon. Donna M., a Delelgate in Congress from the Territory of the Virgin Islands, prepared statement of
Faleomavaega, Hon. Eni F.H., a Delegate in Congress from American Samoa
Hansen, Hon. James V., a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah
Prepared statement of
Hefley, Hon. Joel, a Representative in Congress from the State of Colorado, prepared statement of
Ryun, Hon. Jim, a Representative in Congress from the State of Kansas
Prepared statement of
Vento, Hon. Bruce, a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota
Woolsey, Hon. Lynn, a Representative in Congress from the State of California
Additional material submitted for the record by
Statements of witnesses:
Ackerson, Nels, Attorney, The Ackerson Group
Prepared statement of
Allen, Richard, Landowner
Prepared statement of
Berner, Robert, Executive Director, Marin Agricultural Land Trust
Prepared statement of
Borello, Judy, Rancher
Prepared statement of
Coletti, Mary, Rancher
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement of
Additional material submitted for the record by
Cummiskey, Vicki, Mayor, city of Ottawa, Kansas, prepared statement of
Doughty, Sharon, Dairy Rancher
Prepared statement of
Furlong, Donna, Rancher
Prepared statement of
Glosemeyer, Jane, Landowner
Prepared statement of
Hodgson, Hon. Janice, Mayor, City of Garnett
Prepared statement of
Kinsey, Steve, Supervisor, Fourth District, County of Marin
Prepared statement of
Kitay, Evelyn, Senior Trial Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Surface Transportation Board
Prepared statement of
McIntyre, Amelia J., Legal Counsel, city of Garnett, prepared statement of
Newman, Bill, Vice President and Washington Counsel, Conrail
Prepared statement of
Norton, Edward, Board Member, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Prepared statement of
Pozzi, Martin and Sally, Ranchers
Prepared statement of Mr. Pozzi
Stevenson, Kate, Associate Director, Cultural Resource Stewardship and Partnerships, The National Park Service
Prepared statement of
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWelsh, Richard, Executive Director, National Association of Reversionary Property Owners
Prepared statement of
Woodbury, Howard, Landowner
Prepared statement of
Additional material supplied:
Point Reyes National Seashore, California
HEARING ON H.R. 2438, TO ENCOURAGE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF APPROPRIATE TRAILS ON ABANDONED RAILROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY, WHILE ENSURING THE PROTECTION OF CERTAIN REVERSIONARY PROPERTY RIGHTS AND
H.R. 1995, TO PROVIDE FOR THE PROTECTION OF FARMLAND AT THE POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1997
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, Committee on Resources, Washington, DC
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room 1324, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. James V. Hansen (chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES V. HANSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH
Mr. HANSEN. The Committee will come to order.
Good morning and welcome to the hearing. Today we will hear testimony on two bills. One amends the National Trails System Act, and the other provides protection to farmlands in California. We are pleased to have two Members of Congress to testify on these bills, along with the other witnesses.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to welcome Congressman Jim Ryun, who will explain H.R. 2438, and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who will explain H.R. 1995.
Before these hearings, however, I need to proceed with the legislation markup of H.R. 2186.
[Whereupon, at 10:02 a.m., the Subcommittee proceeded to other business.]
Mr. HANSEN. Let's seewe'll now go back to the legislative hearing.
H.R. 2438 was introduced by Congressman Jim Ryun of Kansas to establish appropriate trails on abandoned railroad rights-of-way. This bill will amend the National Trails System Act to ensure protection of private property rights on lands which once held an active railroad easement and modifies the language in the existing Act to allow other uses, but still retains the recreational use where it is appropriate. H.R. 2438 also assures that State laws regarding railroad easements and rights-of-ways will not be preempted by Federal statute.
The second bill the Committee will hear today is H.R. 1995, the Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act of 1997, introduced by Mrs. Woolsey of California.
This bill creates a farmland protection area in Marin and Sonomais that how you pronounce thatSonoma Countiesis that right, Lynn?
Ms. WOOLSEY. That's correct.
Mr. HANSEN. [continuing] in California, consisting of 38,000 acres of privately owned land by expanding the existing boundary of the Point Reyes National Seashore. This bill is opposed by some people here who will give their objection to it. There is also the concern of acquisition of development easements by the Secretary of the Interior. This legislation could set a precedent, and I would hope that members would take a close look at both bills.
I will now recognize my distinguished colleague from American Samoa for any opening remarks he may have.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Hansen follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES V. HANSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH
Good morning everyone and welcome to the hearing. Today we will hear testimony on two bills. One amends the National Trails System Act and the other provides protection to farm land in California. We are pleased to have two Members of Congress to testify on these bills, along with the other witnesses.
I would like to welcome:
Congressman Jim Ryun who will explain H.R. 2438 and, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey who will explain H.R. 1995
But before these hearings however, I need to proceed to the legislative markup of H.R. 2186. I would like to begin by saying that Congresswoman Cubin wanted to be here to explain H.R. 2186, however, she has just undergone major back surgery and is unable to attend. I certainly wish her a very speedy and complete recovery.
Now, I will get back to the legislative hearings.
H.R. 2438 was introduced by Congressman Jim Ryun of Kansas to establish appropriate trails on abandoned railroad rights-of-way. This bill will amend the National Trails System Act to ensure protection of private property rights on lands which once held an active railroad easements and modifies the language in the existing Act to allow other interim uses, but still retains the recreational use where it is appropriate. H.R. 2438 also assures that state laws regarding railroad easements and rights-of-way will not be preempted by Federal statute.
The second bill the Subcommittee will hear testimony on today is H.R. 1995, The Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act of 1997, introduced by Mrs. Woolsey of California.
This legislation is very controversial in nature, and was scheduled for a hearing before this Subcommittee only at the insistence of Chairman Young. This bill creates a ''Farmland Protection Area'' in Marin and Sonoma counties in California, consisting of approximately 38,000 acres of privately owned, productive agricultural land, outside the existing boundary of the Point Reyes National Seashore. The bill is opposed by a majority of the affected landowners who control approximately 75 percent of the land in question.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We will hear testimony from these directly affected landowners that will emphasize how this involuntary inclusion within a National Park Service boundary will affect the value of this land, and the future of agriculture in this area that their families have protected for over 100 years!
We will also hear from officials representing Marin County and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust to explain why Federal taxpayers must bail out the most wealthy per capita income county in the United States, by purchasing development rights on privately owned land that is already protected from development by local zoning, and comprehensive State of California programs, such as the Williamson Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act.
Finally, we will hear that the Congress has already provided a voluntary, agricultural conservation easement program on a national basis in the 1996 Farm Bill. H.R. 1995 attempts to fund agricultural easements through the National Park System at a time when the land acquisition backlog is over $1.2 billion. The bill intends to place a burden on the Land and Water Conservation fund of $30 million, to an estimated $80 million, to enhance Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for which the American taxpayer has already paid over $145 million for land acquisition, and will spend more this year!! The hearing today is before the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, there should be no mistake that H.R. 1995 is a park expansion bill, not an agricultural bill!
STATEMENT OF HON. ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, A DELGATE TO CONGRESS FROM AMERICAN SAMOA
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Chairman, thank you, and I would also like to offer my personal welcome to Congressman Ryun of Kansas, and our good friend, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey from California.
Mr. Chairman, we're here this morning to receive testimony on two pieces of legislation, H.R. 2438, by Mr. Ryun of Kansas, to amend the National Trails System, and H.R. 1995, by Congresswoman Woolsey of California, to protect the farmland at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1983, Congress amended the National Trails System Act to set up a process through which railroad corridors would be converted into recreation trails on an interim basis. This program has been extremely successful thus far, resulting in 123 railbanked corridors in 26 States, comprising some 3,412 miles of recreation trails. And recreation trails have been reactivated to rail service in Ohio and Washington.
The Rails to Trails program provides the public with the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreation activity on land that would have otherwise remained under the authority of railroad companies and closed to the public. For the railroad companies, this program provides for railroad rights-of-way to be maintained and preserved until the company reinstates future rail lines as needed. Through this program, Federal, State, and local governments have not only worked cooperatively among themselves, but also with private business interests, preservationists, and outdoor enthusiasts.
In 1992, the National Park Service, together with Penn State University, conducted a study of trail problems to the neighbors and its effects on local businesses. Some land owners with property adjacent to rail corridors fear that a recreation trail would bring problems to their neighborhood. However, one of the study's results found that 87 to 97 percent of adjacent landowners found that having a recreation trail either had no effect or increased their property values.
I am concerned about the impacts enactment of H.R. 2438 would have on this program. Provisions affecting the abandonment status of rail-banked corridors and applicability of State laws may hinder this important and popular program.
H.R. 1995, the Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act, addresses a problem in Congresswoman Woolsey's district of Marin and Sonoma Counties in California. There have been numerous public meetings on this legislation among the affected landowners, Federal and local officials.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In July 1995, the National Park Service released a study which they were directed to undertake by this Committee confirming the need to protect farmlands in this area. To date, the local community has contributed in excess of $15 million toward the acquisition of conservation easements.
I want to commend Congresswoman Woolsey for her fantastic work on this piece of legislation and her dedication and hard work on this matter, and I look forward to hearing the testimonies from the witnesses concerning these two pieces of legislation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. The gentleman from Minnesota.
[The prepared statements of Mrs. Boxer and Mr. Hefley follow:]
STATEMENT OF HON. BARBARA BOXER, A SENATOR IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
As with many of our national parks, monuments and other protected treasures, the character and beauty of the Point Reyes National Seashore are threatenednot by development or environmental degradation within the national seashorebut by proposed development outside the boundary line over which the Park Service has no control.
The Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act of 1997 is an innovative proposal which will ensure that the ecological integrity of the Point Reyes National Seashore is protected for future generations, while also preserving the property rights and historic agricultural use of the farmland in the area. I am pleased to be introducing the Senate companion legislation next week.
The legislation establishes a Farmland Protection Area adjacent to the Point Reyes National Seashore within which willing farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity to sell conservation easements for their land. The Farmland Protection Area includes 38,000 acres of the eastern shore of Tomales Bay visible from within Point Reyes. Property owners within that area will be available, but not required, to sell conservation easements to their land.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Conservation easements are legal agreements between a land-owner and a land trust (non-profit) conservation organization. The conservation easements restrict development on the land which is incompatible with the agricultural uses of the land. The easements would not expand public access, pesticide regulations, hunting rights, etc. Furthermore, the easements will remain with the land in perpetuity providing security for ranchers as well as continued protection for the national seashore.
The easements will allow existing agriculture activities to continue and will preserve the pastoral nature of the land adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Areas by guaranteeing no new development.
I believe this legislation will become a model for land conservation across the nation as governments lack the funds to purchase fee title to protect valuable properties from development. This approach may be used to address similar problems at other parks, wildlife refuges, and marine sanctuaries by preserving compatible land use areas that protect view sheds and prevent environmental damage.
This legislation will allow the National Park Service, working with the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), the Sonoma Land Trust (SLT), and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (SCAPOSD) to protect this beautiful area at a fraction of the cost of acquiring title to the properties within the new boundaries. In addition, those properties would be maintained on Marin County's tax rolls.
Without this legislation, almost 40,000 acres of scenic ranch land will be vulnerable to development. This bill has the strong support of the local farmers and ranchers within the area to be protected, local environmental groups including the Marin Conservation League, effected local governments and the local chamber of commerce.
I commend Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey for her hard work and dedication to this legislation. She has been working closely with interested parties in an effort to find this innovative solution which benefits ranchers, environmentalists, the County, and the Park Service alike.
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STATEMENT OF HON. JOEL HEFLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO
Mr. Chairman, in 1983, the Senate Energy Committee was confronted with a growing number of railroad abandonments and began to think it was a good idea to keep some of these rights-of-way open. The result was the National Rails-to-Trails Act, probably one of the more popular programs of recent years.
As a supporter of both recreational trails and private property rights, I have a particular interest inand concern overthe bill before us today. Based upon what little I know about Kansas property law and settlement patterns, Mr. Ryun may have a pointin his home state. But I don't think it's wise to adopt a blanket remedy for a problem that happens in scattered states or regions. In Kansas, the railroads may well have sold land to farmers with a reversionary right. If that is the case, then it would seem they are due compensation and there are existing laws to deal with that problem. But I do not know whether the same situation exists in Colorado or Oklahoma or in the West at large, in other parts of the country or even in other parts of Kansas. If we are going to protect private property rights, we must protect all private property rights, whether they belong to the farmer, the railroad or the United States.
I am further concerned about whether this bill will damage the alleged underlying purpose of the 1983 law, that is to preserve transportation corridors for possible future use. It may seem absurd to us, while we lose approximately 3,000 miles of railroad trackage each year, to worry about whether we'll need rail rights-of-way in the future. But as a national policy body, we must. By yielding these rights-of-ways, we may forever lose the option of their use as a transportation corridor. It does no good to say we can declare a public use easement if that need arises. The country is growing. Costs would likely preclude any such future construction. I do not know whether we can allow individual states to opt out of a national transportation plan any more than we could allow them to opt out of the Interstate Highway System.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, I believe we should tread warily on this issue. Reportedly, the Senate Transporation Committee worked on this issue for two years without resolution and the subject has been constantly revisited since 1983. The issue has worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court on at least two occasions. Private property rights are a constitutional issue that should be dealt with seriously. But we should not trash a successful program and our future needs without careful deliberation.
STATEMENT OF HON. BRUCE VENTO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. VENTO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm a sponsor of the Point Reyes National Seashore Protection Act. This is a bill that has received a good deal of focus and study over the last 6 or 7 years. It was initiated by the local authorities in terms of the county and then picked up by the Congresswoman in terms of pursuing a Federal participation in the role.
It represents an important step forward in terms of enhancing and trying to accommodate the Point Reyes National Seashore experience, the basic designation. This proposes to protect through wholly voluntary agreementsit's a voluntary program in terms of buying the scenic easements and maintaining the farm and dairy character of the landsthe farmlands and agricultural lands adjacent to Tomales Bay.
It's an area if you visit, Mr. Chairman, you would recognize that when you're in Point Reyes you're looking directly over at these particular lands. As I said, there's been substantial dollars already raised locally to participate in the program. The major county involved has taken the lead in this, but they need our cooperation. We need to coordinate our activities with the county and the Park Service to achieve the objectives that are envisioned here.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is a park where nearly 2.5 million visitors a year experience this, merely 50 miles north of San Francisco. It's an important resource and one that affords us an economical and efficient way, in terms of a partnership, an important partnership, to try and conserve and maintain the rural character on a voluntary, willing-seller basis with regard to the purchase of these covenants that are envisioned in the bill.
And so it has receivedthe Park Service has studied itI think we will get support. There is substantial agreement; there isn't absolute agreement, but I don't think we should be too amazed by that. I think, though, that the work has been on this, and I think the bill has a goodly amount of merit, and, hopefully, we can work through whatever differences remain and act positively on it.
I also note that we're hearing a bill that modifies the basic Rails to Trails law, one of the more innovative proposals. Across the country we've seen substantial rail abandonment or the cessation of the use of rails on many of the lines, and these have turned into one of the most important recreational resources that are available in many of our areas.
It affects greatlynow here's an area that affects a lot of urban areas, Mr. Chairman, and suburban areas, and in spite of the fact that adjacent landowners have often voiced concerns, after the trails are established, as high as 70 to 90 percent have voiced an affirmative response that it actually has enhanced the value of the lands adjacent to it, because of the desirability of being close to a resource of this nature.
So, I, myself, am a frequent user of such trails, and I think and I find that the ones in and aroundwe have trails that stretch in Minnesota for hundreds of miles, and they are an extremely valuable resource and, I think, point the direction of recreation into the next century. So I am very concerned about any changes that might occur to that which would discourage the temporary railbanking, which I think is a good compromise and/or, in other words, would eviscerate the effect of converting these trails to recreation use.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I hope we can work our way through that and try to put in place the proper safeguards to assure that there are some hearings and some review of that, but that we would keep in place the progress, the evolution of these rail sites into trails for the broad public use, Mr. Chairman. So I look forward to the hearing today.
We will be interrupted, I understand. Our Committee has responsibilities on the floor, and I certainly, while I'm interested in these topics, will be most interested in addressing the concerns on the floor, as may other members.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from California, Mr. Pombo.
The gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Kildee.
Mr. KILDEE. I am primarily here to listen to my spiritual confessor, Lynn Woolsey.
Mr. HANSEN. We're happy to have our two colleagues with us at this time. We'll turn to The Honorable Jim Ryun and The Honorable Lynn Woolsey.
Mr. Ryun, take whatever time you need, and the floor is yoursand we'd also like to welcome our colleague from Missouri who is with us at this particular time.
STATEMENT OF HON. JIM RYUN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF KANSAS
Mr. RYUN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling the hearing today on my bill, H.R. 2438, the Railway Abandonment Clarification Act.
I would like to also thank all of the witnesses who have taken time and spent their money coming here to testify on behalf of my bill. Also, I would like to request unanimous consent to submit additional testimony to be made part of the record.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Without objection, so ordered, and all additional testimony will be part of the record.
[The information referred to follows:]
Mr. RYUN. And I'd also like to take a moment of privilege and introduce my colleague, who you've already mentioned from Missouri, Kenny Hulshof, who would like to make an introduction.
Mr. HULSHOF. Thank you. It's my privilege to be here. I'm not intending to offer testimony, but I do appreciate the efforts that Mr. Ryun has made with this bill.
I am privileged and honored to welcome two constituents here today, one of whom you'll be hearing from. With all due respect to the gentleman from Minnesota, assuming that the numbers ''70 percent to 90 percent of landowners are now appreciative of the Rails to Trails,'' I think you're going to hear some compelling testimony today from the minority of the 10 percent to the 30 percent, particularly Jayne Glosemeyer and her husband, Maurice, who have come from the 9th Congressional District of Missouri, from Marthasville, that have a farm there. They have the situation of an abandoned railway that has been turned into a trail area, and they're going to talk about some of the realities and some of the difficulties and challenges that they've faced.
So, I'm here in support of them, and, again, appreciate the gentleman allowing me the privilege of introducing the Glosemeyers to you and to this body. Thank you.
Mr. RYUN. Mr. Chairman, I'm here today to discuss a fundamental constitutional right, and that is the right to own property. This right is a pillar of our democracy and there is a Bill of Rights to protect that.
My legislation addresses the rights of property owners whose land once held a railway track that was running through it. Specifically, the Act allows States to participate in the process of determining how abandoned railways are developed into recreational trails.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC From the start let me say one thing and make it very clear: I support the development of trails. I've enjoyed trails; I want my children and future grandchildren to have the opportunity to use trails, and I believe that the quality of trails can add economic benefits to some communities. Although I have run on more miles than I care to count on trails, and they are wonderful, they're safe, my desire to run on a smooth surface should not come at the expense of property owners whose constitutional right hangs in the balance.
These property owners are farmersyou're going to hear from some of them todayhomeowners, and small business people. When many of these folks in my district approached me with their concerns about the way railways are currently converted into trails, I found the root of their concern to be the very thing that American people have rejected time and time again, and that is one-size-fits-all Federal lawthe Washington mentality, that type of law that is based on power, that gives power to the few at the expense of the majority.
When the Rails to Trails Act was first introduced in 1983, it was not given careful consideration in Congress, and, consequently, its impact was not understood. The Rails to Trails Act was passed by the House of Representatives under suspension of the rules in March 1983 and was debated for only 20 minutes in the Senate. This expedited schedule resulted in a simple misunderstanding. While many railways ran on Federal property, it was not mentioned that many other railroad rights-of-way are held on private property.
Unfortunately, the unintended consequences of the Rails to Trails program is that individual property rights are suspended and special interest groups, under the color of law, are allowed to use private land for public purposes without providing due process or compensation for property owners.
The controversy over the Rails to Trails program boils down to the fact that much of the railbanked land actually belongs to private landowners, and these landowners are completely denied, even under the slightest opportunity, to participate in the decisionmaking process with regard to how the trail will be developed on their property.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Here's what actually happened to one my constituents. This farmer and his family have owned a piece of land near Topeka for almost 150 years. The farmer allowed the railroad to lay a railwaythe ties and the trackacross the land and use the land by granting the land to the railroad as an easement. But keep in mind, the farmer continued to own that land. When the railroad stopped operating its trains and removed its tracks and railroad bed, the farmer still owned that land; nothing had really changed. However, the Federal Government told the farmer that he couldn't use his own land after the railway was taken away. Instead, the government told the farmer that his land was not considered abandoned and he would not be able to use it, and it was used then for a public recreation trail.
To add insult to injury, special interest trails groups with no public accountability are authorized to establish these trails on privately owned land. Therefore, the farmer becomes the proverbial David against the trail group's Goliath, which is armed with lawyers and the power of the Federal Government. This is all accomplished through legislative sleight-of-hand.
The National Trails System Act states that interim use of a railway is defined as bicycling, cross-country skiing, day hiking, equestrian activities, jogging or other similar activities. Furthermore, the Rails to Trails Act, which amends the National Trails System Act, states that interim use should not be treated asand this importantrailway abandonment, and the Surface Transportation Board shall not permit abandonment. So abandonment really does not equal abandonment.
Common sense, on the other hand, would suggest that interim use is abandonment because you cannot run, bike, ride your horse, ski, or whatever, on railroad tracks. Interim use and railroad are mutually exclusive; you cannot have one with the other.
The Rails to Trails Act tramples on the rights of property owners and tramples on the rights of many State governments. For example, Kansas law states that when a railroad ceases to use its tracks on the farmer's property and the trains stop rolling, the use of the land automatically reverts to the rightful land owner? Why? Because the farmer owns the land and can do with it as he pleases once the trains and the tracks are gone. Through definitional sleight-of-hand, the Federal Government has thrown out State law relating to reversionary property rights, and suddenly a person's private land had become, if you will, public.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Those in favor of trail development argue that changes in the Rails to Trails Act are not warranted because of the significant popularity and the economic benefits of recreational trails. Trail advocates say further that railbanking rail corridors is vital to the country's transportation infrastructure because it preserves valuable rail corridors for the future.
And lastly, trail advocates state that the Supreme Court has ruled that railbanking is constitutional, and that those property owners who believe a taking has occurred should file with the U.S. Court of Claims for their day in court and receive compensation.
It is true that property owners can file in the Claims Court. Small Kansas farmers, however, do not have the financial resources to hire an attorney to jump through the administrative hoops and to spend the money to fight for compensation on a 100-foot wide easement that they know is really theirs. We can all do the math. It is not worth spending $100,000 in attorney's fees to be compensated for confiscated land worth about $30,000. In fact, not a single aggrieved property owner has been compensated in the 14 years of the Rails to Trails program. And I think that point is very important to make, and at this point no one has been compensated through all of these years as a result of what we define as a ''taking.''
Also, my bill removes the one-size-fits-all-mandate that converts abandoned railways into recreational trails. It does not diminish the Surface Transportation Board's authority to preserve our national corridor system. Instead, it gives discretion to the Surface Transportation Board to certify trail use, but does not require it. In this way, railbanked corridors do not have to hold a recreational trail. Instead, railbanked land could be used by landowners for farm or range land or any other purpose until rail use is reinstated.
I can assure the Committee that reinstating a railway over a crop of wheat is no more difficult than reinstating a railway over a trail. In this way, the STB can continue to preserve the valuable railway corridors in compliance with State abandonment law. The Railway Abandonment Clarification Act takes a common sense approach. It balances the approach to the Federal treatment of railway abandonment and the development of recreational trails.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Act will ensure that farmers and property owners have a voice in how the land will be used. It will conform Federal railway abandonment law to the Constitution. It will preserve a State's rights to determine private property issues and to continue the encouragement and development of trails, and that's very important. Sometimes I've argued against that I am against trailsI am very much for trails.
Let's look at this last point for a moment, if I might. H.R. 2438 does not repeal the Trails Act or prevent the development of trails on private property. Instead, it continues to encourage States to develop trails. The Railway Abandonment Clarification Act encourages trail development by returning this power to the States and allowing them to determine how trails will be developed. H.R. 2438 corrects the problem of current law, while maintaining railbanking and appropriate trail development.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to conclude my testimony with a quote from James Madison, illustrating the foresight of our Founding Fathers. He said this in 1792, and I'd like to quote it for you. Madison said: ''That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.''
I urge quick consideration of this bill so that the landowners can regain the use of their land, and I'd be happy to answer any questions at this time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ryun follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. JIM RYUN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF KANSAS
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this hearing on my bill, H.R. 2438, the Railway Abandonment Clarification Act. I am here today to discuss a fundamental constitutional rightthe right to own property. This right is a pillar of our democracy and my bill aims to protect that right.
My legislation addresses the rights of a property owner whose land once had railroad tracks running through it. Specifically, the Act allows states to participate in the process of determining how abandoned railways are developed into recreational trails.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Before I address what my bill does, however, let me make one thing clear: I support trail development. I enjoy trails; I want my children and grandchildren to have the opportunity to use trails; and I believe that quality trails can add economic benefits to some communities. Although I have run more miles than I can count on trails, my desire to run on a smooth surface should not come at the expense of property owners whose Constitutional rights hang in the balance.
These property owners are farmers, homeowners, and small business people. When many of these folks in my district approached me with their concerns about the way railways are currently converted into trails; I found their concerns to be the very thing that the American people have rejected time and time again: a one-size-fits-all Washington-based law that gives power to the few at the expense of the majority.
When the Rails to Trails Act was first passed in 1983, it was not given serious consideration in Congress and consequently its impact was not understood. The Rails to Trails Act was passed by the House of Representatives under suspension of the rules in March of 1983, and was debated for only twenty minutes in the Senate. This expedited schedule resulted in a simple misunderstanding: while many railways run on Federal property, it was not mentioned that many other railroad rights-of-way are held on private property. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences of the rails to trails program are that individuals' property rights are held in abeyance and special interest groups are allowed to use private land for public purposes without providing due process or compensation to the property owners.
In a nutshell, the controversy over the Rails to Trails program boils down to the fact that much of the railbanked land actually belongs to private landowners, like the good farmers in my district. Here is what actually happened to one of my constituents who is a farmer.
This farmer owns a piece of land near Topeka, Kansas. The farmer allowed a railroad to lay a railway (the ties & track) across his land and ''use'' the land by granting the railroad an easement. But, keep in mind, the farmer still owns the land. When the railroad stopped operating its trains and removed its tracks and railway bedagain the farmer still owns the land. However, the problem is that the Federal Government told the farmer that he couldn't use his own land after the railway is taken away. Instead, the government told the farmer that his land is not considered abandoned and will be used as a public recreation trail.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To add insult to injury, its not even the Federal Government that determines where trails will be developed. Special interest trails groups, with no public accountability, are authorized to establish these trails on privately owned land. Therefore, the farmer becomes the proverbial David against the trail group's Goliath, which is armed with a league of lawyers and the power of the Federal Government.
This is all accomplished through legislative sleight-of-hand. The National Trails System Act states that interim use of a railway is defined as bicycling, cross-country skiing, day hiking, equestrian activities, jogging or similar fitness activities. Furthermore, the Rails to Trails Act, which amended the National Trails System Act, states that interim use shall not be treated as railway abandonment and the Surface Transportation Board shall not permit abandonment.
In essence, the Federal law states: abandonment is NOT abandonment. Common sense, on the other hand, would suggest that interim use IS abandonment because you cannot run, bike, ride horses or ski on railroad tracks. Interim use and railroad use are mutually exclusive; you cannot have one with the other.
The Rails to Trails Act tramples on the rights of property owner's and tramples on the rights of many State governments. For example, Kansas law states that when a railroad ceases to use its tracks on the farmer's propertyand the trains stop rollingthe use of the land automatically reverts to the rightful landowner. Why? Because the farmer owns the land and can do with it as he pleases once trains and tracks are gone. Through definitional sleight-of-hand, the Federal Government has thrown out state law relating to reversionary property rights and suddenly a person's private land has become ''public.''
Those in favor of trail development will argue that changes to the Rails to Trails Act are not warranted because of the significant popularity and economic benefits of recreational trails. Trails advocates say further that railbanking rail corridors (the policy that prevents the reversion or rights-of-way to property owners for potential future railway use) is vital to the country's transportation infrastructure because it preserves valuable rail corridors for the future. Lastly, trails advocates state that the Supreme Court has ruled that railbanking is constitutional and that those property owners who believe a taking has been made can file in the U.S. Court of Claims for their day in court to receive compensation.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is true that property owners can file in Claims Court. Small Kansas farmers, however, do not have the financial resources to hire an attorney to jump through the administrative hoops and spend the money to fight for compensation on a 100 foot wide easement that they know is theirs. We can all do the math: it is not worth spending $100,000 in attorney's feeds to be compensated for land worth about $30,000. In fact, not a single aggrieved property owner has been compensated in the 14 years of the Rails to Trails program.
The Railway Abandonment Clarification Act takes a common-sense, balanced approach to the Federal treatment of railway abandonment and the development of recreational trails. The Act will ensure that farmers and property owners have a voice in how their land will be used. It will conform Federal railway abandonment law to the Constitution; preserve a State's right to determine private property issues; and continue to encourage trail development.
Let's look at this last point for a minute. H.R. 2438 does not repeal the Trails Act or prevent the development of trails on private property. Instead, it continues to encourage states to develop trails. The Railway Abandonment Clarification Act encourages trail development by returning this power to the states, allowing them to determine how trails will be developed.
My bill removes the ''one-size-fits-all'' mandate that converts abandoned railways into recreational trails. Instead, it gives discretion to the Surface Transportation Board to certify trail use, but does not require it. In this way, railbanked corridors do not have to hold a recreational trail. Instead, land could be used by landowners for farm or range land or any other purpose until rail use is reinstated. In this way, the STB can continue to preserve valuable railway corridors and can allow state abandonment law to revert railway corridors that are dead-ends or are remotely located.
Let's be clear. Again, in many cases, the farmer owns the land. He owns the soil and everything beneath the ties and tracks. The ties and tracks belong to the railroad. When the railroad removes those tracks and ties, there is nothing left but the land owned by the farmer.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But the Federal Government does not believe that Kansans, or other Americans, know best how to use their own land. Instead of making the rights of private property a priority, the government has made recreational use for certain citizens a priority.
This is poor Federal legislation and needs to be rectified. H.R. 2438, The Railway Abandonment Clarification Actwill change this law and restore private property rights issues to the states.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to conclude my testimony with a quote from James Madison, illustrating the foresight of our Founding Fathers. He said, in 1792:
''That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizers of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.''
H.R. 2438 corrects the problems in the current law while maintaining railbanking and appropriate trail development.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you very much. Lynn Woolsey, we'll turn to you.
STATEMENT OF HON. LYNN WOOLSEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Ms. WOOLSEY. First, I'd like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing. I know how busy your schedule is, and I truly, truly appreciate your willingness to have a hearing on this important piece of legislation. Thank you.
I'd also like to extend my appreciation to Chairman Young and to the Committee for their interest, and your interest, in the bill.
Today you will hear from a variety of people about the Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act. I'd like, particularly, to recognize three of my constituents who have traveled to Washington to demonstrate the breadth of support which this bill enjoys in my district. I want to thank them for sacrificing their busy schedules and being here today: Marin County Supervisor, Steve Kinsey; Marin Agricultural Land Trust Executive Director, Bob Berner, and Sharon Doughty, West Marin Chamber of Commerce member, Marin County Farm Bureau member, and landowner.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are many others in the audience, Mr. Chairman, who have also traveled to demonstrate their support, and I want to thank them, too.
In addition to submitting my written statement for the record, I'd also like to submit letters of support for this bill to be included in the hearing record.
Mr. HANSEN. Without objection.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, earlier this year the American Farmland Trust released a shocking statement: ''Nationwide, almost 50 acres of prime and unique farmland are being destroyed every hour, every day.'' This loss of productive farmland threatens not only the lifestyle of small farmers, but also the economic and environmental stability of our community.
In my district, Marin County alone has lost 32,000 acres of farmland since 1952. The Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act, H.R. 1995, is a unique solution to this growing problem in our country. How do we protect disappearing farmland while simultaneously protecting our natural resources?
The fundamental problem we face in Marin and Sonoma Counties is the threat of development. The lands in the proposed farmland protection area are sandwiched between 6.5 million people who live in the San Francisco Bay area and the Point Reyes National Seashore, one of the 10 most heavily visited national parks in this country. As more and more visitors discover the beauty and the majesty of this area, Mr. Chairman, the pressures for development become greater and greater.
By authorizing the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, this bill enables willing landowners to remain in agriculture. The great beauty of this legislation is that the local residents developed a solution which works for them. It is based on former Marin County Supervisor Gary Giacomini's vision, and it builds upon existing successful land trust and open space district programs. The organizations that monitor the agricultural conservation easements within the proposed farmland protection area are made up of local residents.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, landowners will not be dealing with bureaucrats in Washington. They will be dealing with their neighbors who best understand their needs. The Federal Government does have an interest in this area. That interest is the Point Reyes National Seashore. The purchase of agricultural conservation easements protects agriculture, while defending the Nation's investment in the seashore from incompatible land uses in the surrounding areas.
H.R. 1995 creates a 38,000-acre farmland protection area. Landowners in the area qualify for the benefits of agricultural conservation easements. Landowners outside the area do not. H.R. 1995 authorizes $30 million for the Federal Government to partner with the local community in a dollar-for-dollar match. The local community has already invested $15 million in this area.
H.R. 1995 does not grant any additional powers to the Federal Government. It authorizes a voluntary program. It ensures that the land remains on the tax roll, and it protects private property rights. If a landowner chooses not to participate, life remains unchanged.
Mr. Chairman, I've held public meetings, and I've had individual meetings, one-on-one, with most landowners within the proposed farmland protection area. I sat in their kitchens, I heard their concerns, and I cleared up misinformation. These meetings were extremely productive, and this bill responds to the suggestions and concerns that I heard from the landowners.
Through these meetings, I know that the majority of impacted landowners support this bill. In addition, the great majority of my constituents support this bill. Both the Marin and Sonoma Boards of Supervisors have endorsed the plan, as well as the West Marin Chamber of Commerce. National organizations supporting this legislation include the League of Women Voters, American Farmland Trust, and the Trust for Public Land.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Currently, H.R. 1995 has 44 bipartisan co-sponsors. In particular, I'd like to acknowledge my original co-sponsor, Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, as well as the Park Subcommittee members who are co-sponsors: Ranking Member Faleomavaega, which I think was the hardest part of this testimonymaking sure I got his name rightRepresentatives Duncan, Vento, Jones, Pallone, and Hinchey, and Delegate Christian-Green.
The landowners raised concerns about this legislation during our meetings, and in response this bill was strengthened to ensure more protection for agriculture and for landowners. Despite these changes some members, however, of the local Farm Bureau, continue to oppose the bill. However, it must be noted that the Marin Farm Bureau is split and officially neutral on this issue.
Mr. Chairman, Subcommittee members, the Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act is a creative solution for protecting our agricultural land, a solution that balances environmental and economic needs, while at the same time respecting the rights of individual property owners. H.R. 1995 will serve as a national model for the protection of agriculture, as well as for the protection of our Nation's investment in its national parks.
The program is completely voluntary. It keeps lands in private ownership and maintains the local tax base. Through this program, we will be investing in our future by protecting our Nation's resourcesboth land and people. We must begin to take steps to address this need. This bill will start that process.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to answering any questions that you might have about this legislation.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. I will proceed at this point, as we have a vote on now on the rule on the grazing billand following that, if we could hurry back, we would have questions for our colleagues on their testimony, and then we'll go to the panels. I intend to hold everyonemembers and witnessesto 5 minutes. We've got seven panels today, and it's going to take a while to get through this, so if anybody goes over, they will hear the gavel. So, don't do something you don't want to hear.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Anyway, we'll stand in recess long enough to vote, and then I would urge members of the Committee to hurry right back.
Mr. DUNCAN. [presiding] I've been asked by Committee staff to go ahead and reconvene the hearing until Chairman Hansen gets back. And we are, I understand, at the point of questioning of members, and I don't think we have too many questions of members because we want to move as quickly as we can to other panels.
But, I would like to ask Ms. Woolsey about her bill. Is your bill totally voluntary, Ms. Woolsey?
Ms. WOOLSEY. The bill is 100 percent voluntary, Mr. Duncan. It's willing seller, willing buyer.
Mr. HANSEN. [presiding] The gentleman from Tennessee.
Mr. DUNCAN. Would any agency of the Federal Government have any increased authority or power over this land?
Ms. WOOLSEY. No. In fact, because of the concern in that regard and a discussion I had with Representative Tom Campbell, I have agreed to an author's amendment to the bill when we do get to markup; and that language would say that, ''no lands or interest in lands may be acquired by the Secretary within the farmland protection area without consent of the owner thereof.'' That is the intent in the bill, and we will have it in the bill when the bill gets to the next step.
Mr. DUNCAN. Would any of the farmers there now, anybody who wanted to farm the land laterit's my understanding that a farmer who has this land now would be able to sell the land later to somebody who agreed to keep it in agricultural use. Is that correct?
Ms. WOOLSEY. Absolutely.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. Would they have to get permission from the Department of the Interior or the National Park Service or any other Federal agency
Ms. WOOLSEY. No.
Mr. DUNCAN. [continuing] to sell the land or do anything else on the land? If they wanted to expand their farm by adding a barn, for instance, or doing anything else consistent with agricultural use, would they have to get permission from the Department of the Interior or the National Park Service or any other Federal agency?
Ms. WOOLSEY. They would not have to get permission from any Federal agency. They would go through the Land Trust with whom they negotiated their easement and their agreement.
Mr. DUNCAN. Now what does that meanthat they would have to get permission from the Land Trust?
Ms. WOOLSEY. The Land Trust will monitor the easements. Landowners negotiate a contract with them about how they're going to use their land. And certainly a barn, a residence for a farm worker or for one of their kidsall of thatthey've been doing that already in the 15 years that the Marin Agricultural Land Trust has had easements. We have excellent experience in that regard, that there's no controversy as the land remains in agriculture.
There's no control over pesticides; there's no control over hunting; there's no public access availability in this bill. Public access would be dependent on the landowner wanting public access and having that land purchased by the Federal Government, but they would have to ask for it.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right; thank you very much.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. The gentleman from American Samoa, you're recognized for 5 minutes.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Congresswoman Woolsey, obviously there were, according to your testimony, there were landowners that were opposed or still are opposed to the proposed bill. Can you elaborate howI'm sure that in the course of the hearings and the meetings that you've held with the community people, including the landownerscan you tell the Committee what the basis is of how you draw the conclusion that, as far as you're concerned, the majority of the landowners support the legislation?
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, as I said, I met one-on-one, actually in kitchens, at the kitchen table, with the majority of the landowners. And talk about a group of wonderful peoplelet me tell you; it was my privilege to be there, not their privilege to have me. During these meetings it became very clear that there was a lot of misinformation. Once I got there, we talked through the bill and what it really meansthat it is voluntary, that they don't have to be a part of it if they don't want to, and that their lives won't change if they choose not to participate.
Once they realized that the easements would be based on fair market value, that the Federal Government would not have a reach into their lives, and that their private property rights would be protected, the great majoritythere is a small, vocal minority, believe mebut the great majority of landowners said, ''All right, even if I don't want to participate, I have no problem doing so.'' And I feel very secure in telling you that the majority of the landowners support it.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. A couple of days agoand I'm sure with all of the other members of the SubcommitteeI received a letter from a Mr. Echeverria, the president of the California Cattlemen's Association in opposition to H.R. 1995. Would you care to comment on that?
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, yes; I would. I read that letter myself. First of all, only 3 percent of Cattleman's Association members live in my district, but they sent out this letter about this bill that is very, very inaccurate. I mean, it comes close to being lies, actually. So, to clarify it, agricultural conservation easements will be negotiated and monitored with willing landowners by the local Land Trust organization, not the Park Service as they stated. These easements will keep the land in agriculture, in perpetuity. When the landowner dies, the land doesn't go to the Park; it stays in the family like any private property would.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I want to share a thought with my friends from across the aisle that I don't believe in the encroachment of the Federal Government, tooperhaps you might say selectively.
Now you've indicated earlier in your testimony that your bill does not add more power to Big Brotherthe Federal Governmentto coming in there and taking control of the lives of the people who live or will be affected by the proposed legislation. Would you care to comment on that?
Ms. WOOLSEY. We have, throughout the authoring of this bill, been very careful to make certain that the Federal Government does one thing and one thing onlyit provides a partnership in funding with the local agencies so that we could keep this land in agriculture in perpetuity. This is about farming. This is about agricultureand with the Tom Campbell language that I've agreed to, it couldn't be clearer that there's nothing in this bill to give the Park Service more control over that land.
The farming around the borders of the Point Reyes National Seashore really does protect our investment in that existing national park, which is one of the most visited national parks in the country. So it makes a difference to our investment in the existing park; it makes a difference in keeping agriculture alive in my district and in the Nation.
Congressman Ryun, you're not being neglected here. I just have one question on your proposed legislation. You're just simply saying that the landowners deserve to have due compensation for the taking.
Mr. RYUN. That's correct, and that's one of the processes we're trying to establish with this particular Act.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. OK; and is it your opinion that the Federal Government should be the one that is paying these landowners for the taking?
Mr. RYUN. Not only my opinion, but it's the opinion of the Supreme Court, as well.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. OK. And I understand that there is ongoing court litigation on this very issue. This is nothing new. I mean, I notice you have about seven trails in Kansas, according to the
Mr. RYUN. Yes; we have some that are developed and some that are being considered. I think when you get to the testimony you'll hear some compelling testimony, not only by landowners that have been affected, but by some of the court decisions that have already been rendered.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. OK; thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from California, Mr. Pombo.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Woolsey, you've said that your legislation is voluntary, and I have looked through it, but I fail to seenormally in a legislation such as this that the author intends to be voluntary, there will be a section on that particular subject that outlines what the voluntary participation is and what the options are for the particular private property owners, and there is not one included in this particular legislation.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, if the gentleman would like to work with my office in that regard, like we did with Representative Campbell, we're more than willing to define what the intent of a boundary is. I can tell you what the intent is with this bill, and that's that we create a choice for the landowner.
Those who are within this farmland protection area have the option of an agricultural easement. Those who are not within that area do not have that option, and that's exactly what this is about. It's defining where the Federal Government would have an interest, an interest enough to invest money over time through appropriations after the bill is authorized.
Mr. POMBO. Your legislation allows the purchase of lands within the farmland protected area that are in danger of being developed or under threat of being developed. Whose definition of ''under threat of being developed'' are we going to use?
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, I think the community at large probably would have more to say about that than either of us here in Washington. But it would be willing seller in that regard, and that's what is strengthened in the languagethrough Mr. Campbell's language.
Mr. POMBO. Unfortunately, this legislationyou're incorrect in one thingthe community would have less to say about it than the members of this Committee, because if the Secretary of the Interior is the one that is going to be purchasing the lands, it will be a Federal decision that is made. Therefore, the definition of ''under threat of development'' is more likely to be a definition that is used by the National Park Service or the Department of the Interior or the particular committeethis being the Resources Committee, the Committee of jurisdiction.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, my point in saying local is that the negotiations will be through local land trusts and open space districts. But, remember what the intent of this bill is. The intent of this bill is to keep land in agriculture. One of the reasons we haven't tried to use State programs is that the State tends to turn the land back in to parks. That isn't the intent of this bill. The intent of this bill is to keep this land in agriculture because that is the best use of the land, and it's also the best protection for the Point Reyes National Seashore.
So, keeping that in mind, the people who lived in the area which is now the Pt. Reyes National Seashore were very frightened of the same things that you're talking about. Now, 100 percent of those who are currently farming in the National Seashore have signed a petition saying they are very satisfied with their relationship with the National Park Service. So, we will keep our agreement, and the agreement is to keep this land in agriculture in perpetuitywilling seller, willing buyer.
Mr. POMBO. One final question for you. The land is currently zoned as agricultural land; that's the current zoning that's on the property. The local people have made the decision that that is the zoning that they want, that they want to keep it in agriculture, that that is the purpose of that land in the county zoning at the current time. Why do you think it is necessary to go beyond what the local people have instituted to put in Federal legislation or a Federal designation on that particular piece of property?
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WOOLSEY.Now, for the same reason that we have the Marin Agricultural Land Trust and the Sonoma County Open Space Districts, these lands are under great threat of development. It is a miracle that that land is still in productive agriculture, but it's because it's been owned by three and four generations of farmers that are dedicated to that lifestyle. There are pieces of property proposed for development right now within that area that are before the Board of Supervisors. Over time, that threat is getting greater and greater, and I believe that it's in the best interest in protecting our existing investment in the National Seashore, and also in protecting
Mr. POMBO. I don't want to interrupt you, but I've run out of time. You've said that the local people support keeping it in agriculture. The local people make the decision as to how it is going to be zoned, and it's currently zoned agriculture. The local people make that decision.
No one in this room, other than you, have anything to do with how that particular piece of property is zoned. And yet you seem to be concerned that the local people may change their minds and want a different zoning on that particular property, so what you're asking is that we come up with a Federal zoning for that particular land
Ms. WOOLSEY. No.
Mr. POMBO. [continuing] so that they can't change their mind and make a different decision.
Ms. WOOLSEY. No, they can change their mind. If they don't volunteer to be part of the easement program, they can go right to the Board of Supervisors, to the planning and zoning program that is existing right now in their county. I would think that Republicans would really like this bill because the land is zoned one unit for 60 acres; therefore, they don't get to develop very much of it, if any of it. And I am proposing that we offer them some financial support so they can stay in agriculture, so they can expand, so they can modernize, so they can do whateverpay inheritance taxes. This is really paying them for not developing, which is exactly what I thought was part of the property rights initiative that you support.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. The time of the gentleman has expired. The gentleman from Guam.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I only have one question for Mr. Ryun, and just a comment on Ms. Woolsey's legislation.
Mr. Ryun, in the case of the owners of these railway easements, how far back, how many generations are we talking about in many of these cases? I mean we're not talking about
Mr. RYUN. It's really hard, at this point, to pinpoint an exact date. I know we have manyin fact, I think there are some documents that might be available today showing some of the actual easements that were granted. My point is, it's difficult to trace it back and yet we have many documents that show that people originally gave just the right-of-way to the railroads for an interim use just for that period of time.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Well, I'm in support of the basic thrust of your legislation, but I was just wondering, are we talking about things that could go back four, five, or six generations of families, of owners? We're talking about something that could have been over 100no, not 100 yearsmaybe 100 years ago?
Mr. RYUN. Yes; that's very possible.
Mr. POMBO. If the gentleman would yield on that point. In many of these cases these easements were granted between the late 1800's and 1920, and especially on private property where you had a private property owner granting a railroad use easement on that property. A lot of those easements were given between the late 1880's and 1920's; that is when the documents were actually signed.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. OK; thank you very much. And so in that instance, even though the property owner may have changed, obviously the right to the property stayed with whoever it went to.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RYUN. And may I add something to that?
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Sure.
Mr. RYUN. And that is why the right-of-way was given, it was just for the purpose of the railroad. When the railroad left and the railways and the ties and everything left, so did the easements; so it should revert back to the original owner. That's the way the easements were established.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Well, thank you for that. And I would just like to commend the gentlewoman from California for her legislation and for an innovative and creative way to keep alive what is a very valuable national park area.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Yes, I'd be happy to yield.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I just wanted to ask Congresswoman Woolsey just an additional question just to make surein the times that you've also met, does the administration support this legislation?
Ms. WOOLSEY. Yes. Actually, the Secretary has been out to the area. He came just to view it, and then when he got out of the helicopter he said, ''You've sold me. I've never seen anything quite like it.''
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. And in this whole process
Ms. WOOLSEY. It has to stay in agriculture.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. And in this whole process, there is no Federal taking, whatsoever, of land ownership.
Ms. WOOLSEY. There is no Federal taking.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. And that the landowners maintain their private ownership of the lands involved here.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Private ownership on the tax rollswilling seller, voluntary involvement. What participating means is that land stays in agriculture in perpetuity. It can only be sold for agriculture or for open space, but our goal is to keep it in agriculture.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. OK. And Mr. Ryun, you're not against the trails system, you just want the landowners to be compensated?
Mr. RYUN. That's correct.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. That's the bottom line of what you're asking in this legislation.
Mr. RYUN. That's partly correct. Let me qualify that; yes, we want them to be compensated, but we want them to be able to use their own land, because as it is now set up many times that land goes away, on a trail, and they're not able to use the land as it was originally intended. They have to maintain, let's say, for example, both sides of the trail with fences, whatever it might be. But, nevertheless, we want them to have the right to use that land in whatever way they choose.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. So if a landowner, an adjacent landowner, has 5 acresthat wants to develop that portionand then another portion adjacent to the trails system that goes on for 100 miles, but because of that 5 acres they'll have to go around the trails system?
Mr. RYUN. One of the reasons we wanted to return to the States is to get the State the opportunity to make that decision and get the landowners the choice of whatever they would like to do with their land.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from Guamare there any further questions on your time?
The gentleman from Puerto Rico.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to ask Ms. Woolsey, is this billis this not only what the landowners in the area want, but also what the local leadership in your district wants?
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WOOLSEY. You're correct, Carlos. Both Boards of Supervisors have endorsed the bill, as well as the West Marin Chamber of Commerce. And, we have a stack of support letters that most bills would be very glad to have. And I can tell you, the majoritythe great, great majorityof the people in my district support this initiative, this legislation.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. Well, I guess, who are we then to say otherwise?
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. Mr. Ryun, all you're looking for is that the land that is now being used for the trailways, that it reverts back to the landowners that are adjacent to that property? Is that correct?
Mr. RYUN. We're really dealing with the current land situation and who owns that current land.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. Oh, the ownersthey are the owners of the land, or was the railroad the owner of the land? Who is the owner?
Mr. RYUN. It's whoever holds the deed. In this case, we believe the majority of it goes back to the landownersprivately held.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. Oh, so the land itselfthe trailways themselveswere not owned by the railroad?
Mr. RYUN. No, they were not.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. They were just easements.
Mr. RYUN. That's correct.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. OK; thank you very much.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Ryun, during the last vote you mentioned you felt there was a question on what the gentleman from Minnesota, Mr. Vento, had said and you would like to clarify that answer for the record. Would you like to do that now?
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RYUN. Well, the rights-of-way were paid forand if I can say this, they were paid for, I guess, forever, but really they were only granted for a period of time. In fact, there's case law at the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Indiana that all agree with the fact that that right-of-way was for a period of time and that it would revert back to the original landowners.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. Do any of my colleagues have further questions for this panel, for our colleagues?
The gentleman from California is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ryun, I've had the opportunity to review a number of the grant deeds that were given in these cases. Typically, they would state a boundary limit that would have the property description on it. They would typically say that they were granting an easement that was 50 feet wide on either side of the track that went within this particular property, and that it was a surface easement granted for railroad purposes only; if they were ever to be given up for railroad purposes, that the underlying easement would revert to the adjoining property owners, which was the case in this country for many years, that that is what happened. In many cases, once the ICC ruled that abandonment had taken place, the property would revert to the adjoining property owners who rightfully owned the real estate.
Rails to Trails changed that, and it came in and said, unilaterally, we are taking away all reversionary property right that the adjoining property owners have, and it was done on the suspense calendar in the House; it was done with little or no debate in the Senate. I don't think anybody really realized what a massive taking had occurred when that particular piece of legislation passed, and what you are attempting to do is to correct part of that problem.
You've stated that your interest is in compensation, in the rightful compensation when a taking occurs. But in your experience, do most of these property owners want to be paid or do they want their reversionary rights returned to them?
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RYUN. Most of them would really like the use of their land, because in some casesand we'll have some shown here in just a little bit indicating that the land really cuts through the middle of their propertyto the extent that maintaining fences takes away, if you willit gives them a lot of additional liabilities. I hate to disagree with some of the gentlemen that spoke earlier, but I willthat it is not as pleasant an experience for the landowners as has been projected.
And while I'm an advocate of trails and enjoy the purpose for which they are therethe families can go and participate and bike-ride on them; I enjoy running on themI think it's very important that we look at this issue closely and give the property owners the rights that are guaranteed under the Constitution, and that is if they choose to have compensation, that's fine, but many of them just want the use of their land.
Mr. POMBO. I know that in your past life you are probably the most famous trail user that this Congress has ever had, and have supported that throughout your entire lifethe creation of those trails. But I think in this particular case it's not a matter of whether or not you support trails; it's whether or not Congress is willing to do what's right.
Mr. RYUN. That's correct, and that's one of the reasons that this particular Act is being offered, and that is to return those rights back to the State, because once the Federal Government stepped in and took that right away, it changed this process enormouslyand also return that right back to the individual.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Chairman, I
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from American Samoa.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask unanimous consent to provide for the record a statement by Congresswoman Donna Green
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. [continuing] in full support of Congresswoman Woolsey's bill, H.R. 1995.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Christian-Green follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. DONNA M. CHRISTIAN-GREEN, A DELELGATE IN CONGRESS FROM THE TERRITORY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to make this statement in support of H.R. 1995, the Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act. I want to also take this opportunity to praise Congresswoman Woosley for her hard work in putting H.R. 1995 together and for getting it to this point today.
Mr. Chairman, the Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act is a worthy bill which enjoys bipartisan support and deserves this Subcommittee's favorable recommendation. It's primary purpose is to preserve agriculture by maintaining the Point Reyes farmland in private ownership using conservation easements, following the successful nonprofit Marin Agricultural Land Trust model, which preserved over 11,000 acres of agricultural land in the proposed area over fifteen years ago. This represents a unique and creative way to lend a hand to the area farmers while protecting their livelihood.
In addition to the public/private partnership, H.R. 1995 also establishes a local/Federal Government partnership. Federal funds will be contributed to the area only after the local government has contributed its share. H.R. 1995 has also received the bipartisan support of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the American Farmland Trust, the Inverness Association, the West Marin Environmental Action Committee and the West Marin Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Chairman, H.R. 1995 proposes an innovative cost effective way to protect the 38,000 acres of agricultural lands adjacent to the Point Reyes National Seashore and deserves to be enacted into law.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. And I was curiousin my ignorance, Mr. Chairman, I had asked you if this was the famous Jim Ryun, the olympic runner that I admired so much in my earlier years in watching him perform. And I thought it was R-y-a-n rather than R-y-u-n, but at any rate, my added congratulations for your being here before the Committee.
Mr. RYUN. Thank youand I assume then that I can count on your support?
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Well, as long as it doesn't affect the trails and that the Chairman will find the money to pay for our adjacent landowners, I think we should be able to work something out here in-between.
Mr. HANSEN. This is the famous Eni Faleomavaega, the BYU football player, in case you had any question.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Well, if the Chairman would yield, you know we have 20 Samoans that play in the NFL, and three made All-Pro last year. So that means for every 12,000 Samoans, Mr. Chairman, that live in the United States, we produce one NFL player.
Mr. HANSEN. And half of the BYU team is from American Samoa, if I may say so.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask unanimous consent that a letter that was sent to me by the California Farm Bureau Federation be included in the record.
Mr. HANSEN. Without objection, so ordered.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HANSEN. Any further questions? The gentleman from Puerto Rico.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. No further questions.
Mr. HANSEN. Ms. Woolsey, I've been trying to absorb what you've been saying here, and one part kind of bothers me in section 3(b) of your bill. It provides for the Secretary of the Interior to exchange Federal lands for lands within your farmland protection area without regard to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976or we call that the FLPMA Actyou know, the Organic Act.
In other words, the Secretary can exchange for Federal lands outside of Californiawell, why do you have that provision in your bill? Because in effect, you're amending the FLPMA Act for this one provision, and that is always kind of a red flag to those of us who wade through these things daily.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, it was included to make sure we covered every base of how we might be able to keep this land in productive agriculture, Mr. Chairman. I'm more than willing to talk about how that gets in the way of the bill going forward. I should ask the Park Service why they requested to put it in there.
Mr. HANSEN. We'll have them on next.
Ms. WOOLSEY. This is a question for Don Neubacher.
Mr. HANSEN. Don't worry; they'll get their opportunity. The thing that bothers me, though, is that that's kind of a wide-open provision. See, what you've got here is
Ms. WOOLSEY. If there were excess BLM estimates.
Mr. HANSEN. [continuing] somebody couldsay the Department of Interior couldfind a piece in southern Utah, called the Grand Staircase Escalante, and take ground out of that, or he could find it some somewhere else, and for me that's kind of a dangerous provision on that. Their estimates may be a little
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WOOLSEY. I would believe it would be, and, Mr. Chairman
Mr. HANSEN. Would you be amenable to taking that out?
Ms. WOOLSEY. [continuing] would you ask that question to the Park Service in the next panel? Because they know why they requested it, and if it doesn't make sense we'll work with them and we'll do something differently.
Mr. HANSEN. All right; thank you. Any further questions? Apparently not. We're into this hearing 1 hour and 35 minutes; we've got a number to go.
We ask our colleagues, if they so desire, to join us on the dias, and we'll recognize them after members of the Committee if they have questions for the further panels. Thank you very much.
We'll turn to our next panel, which is Kate Stevenson, Associate Director, Cultural Resource Stewardship and Partnerships, for the National Park Service, and Evelyn KitayI hope I'm saying that rightsenior trial attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Surface Transportation Boardif they would like to join us.
It's always good to see you, Ms. Stevenson; it's a pleasure to have you with us. We'll start with you. Keep in mind, we've got a long hearing. We've got to have this over by 2 o'clock, because we've got other people that are going to come in this room. So, we'll hold everybody to 5 minutes; you know the rules on the lights.
Ms. STEVENSON. That's fine; thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. All right, we'll turn the time to youmay we have order in the chambers, please?
STATEMENT OF KATE STEVENSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP AND PARTNERSHIPS, THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. STEVENSON. Thank you very much. We appreciate very much the opportunity to offer the views of the Department of the Interior on both H.R. 2438 and H.R. 1995. I have with me today Tom Ross, who is the Assistant Director for Recreation and Conservation, and Don Neubacher, who is the Superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore.
We strongly oppose H.R. 2438. This bill would effectively eliminate the railbanking provision in the National Trails System Act, thus impeding preservation of rail corridors for future transportation needs, as well as hindering the creation of new trails in the interim. Railbanking is entirely voluntary on the part of the railroad and the local community. This provision of the statute merely allows those groups to decide whether and how a corridor should be banked for the future.
The National Park Service role is purely advisory. The Act directs us to encourage the development of trails on abandoned railroad rights-of-way for possible future uses. To that end, we notify State and local governments that railroad rights-of-way may be available for trail use. The action, then, is in the hands of the community and the railroad.
Each year we receive about 150 notices of impending abandonments from the railroads. That amounts to about 2,500 miles a year. From October 1995 to October 1996, 118 corridors totaling 1,673 miles were proposed for abandonment. Communities requested railbanking on 34 corridors for a total of 730 miles. Railbanking has become an effective tool for the preservation of railroad corridors. In the 10 years that it has been in place, it has led to the development of 45 trails totaling 1,238 miles in 20 States. We believe the communities should continue to have this option.
The Department strongly supports H.R. 1995, and we urge its early enactment. The bill has five important components. No. 1, it preserves the long-term productive agriculture in the region. No. 2, it furnishes essential watershed protection of Tomales and Bodega estuaries. No. 3, it maintains the land primarily in private ownership. No. 4, it creates a model public-private partnership, and, No. 5, it protects the significant public investment in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The legislation proposes an innovative and cost-effective method to protect the 38,000 acres of coastal agricultural landscape. This protection would primarily be accomplished through acquisition of development rights and conservation easements, all from willing landowners. With conservation easements, land would remain in private ownership and would be protected from incompatible development, and would contribute to the local economy and the tax base. Preserving the undeveloped lands in the farmland protection area is integral to protecting park values and the long-term health of the Tomales and Bodega Bays.
The compatible pastoral setting of the eastern side of Tomales and Bodega Bays is unquestionably in jeopardy. Growth throughout Marin County is high. Open pastures and ranches are being sold and segmented for various types of development. Major land-use changes in the lands forming the eastern slope of Tomales Bay will directly and negatively impact public enjoyment of Point Reyes National Seashore.
A private, non-profit group, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, MALT, has made significant headway in protecting the rural setting of these critical watershed lands. The 13-year-old group has already purchased conservation easements on 11,000 acres within this proposed 38,000-acre protection zone. Because of MALT's efforts, the acquisition of these easements by the Federal Government would not be needed.
Similarly, the Sonoma Land Trust has begun the purchase of several properties in the northern part of the protection area. These local efforts have already contributed close to $15 million to achieve the overall goals of the bill. H.R. 1995 would authorize a Federal partnership, a Federal contribution in order to complete the overall protection of the area.
H.R. 1995 has received bipartisan support and the endorsement of many groups, including the Marin County Board of Supervisors, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the American Farmland Trust, the Inverness Association, the West Marin Environmental Action Committee, and the West Marin Chamber of Commerce.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The National Park Service believes now is the time to support these innovative partnership efforts. If H.R. 1995 were enacted, funding for easement acquisition would be contingent upon Federal budgetary constraints and the administration's funding priorities.
This concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you all might have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Stevenson may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you very much. Ellen Kitay, we'll turn the time to you for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF EVELYN KITAY, SENIOR TRIAL ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL, SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD
Ms. KITAY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm Evelyn Kitay of the General Counsel's Office at the Surface Transportation Board.
I've been involved in a number of judicial proceedings relating to the implementation of the existing Trails Act by the Board and its predecessor, the ICC. Accordingly, I'm here to testify regarding the role of the Board in implementing the existing Trails Act and to present views on H.R. 2438. With me at the table today is Joseph Dettmar, Deputy Director of the Office of Proceedings.
The existing Trails Act gives interested parties the opportunity to negotiate voluntary agreements to use, for recreational trails, railroad rights-of-way that otherwise would be abandoned. The Act is intended to preserve railroad rights-of-way for future use, which is called railbanking. Many railroads do not own the land on which their track lies. Rather, they have easements over the land of adjoining property owners.
Unless those easements are railbanked by converting them to a trail, they are extinguished, and the land reverts to the adjoining property owners when the Board authorizes the abandonment of the line and the abandonment authority is exercised. Some rights-of-way that were made into trails have been reactivated as active rail lines.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Board has adopted specific procedures to implement the existing Trails Act. To begin the trail use process, a trail proponent must file a formal request in an actual abandonment docket. A trail-use request has no effect on the Board's decision as to whether to grant a railroad permission to abandon the line. It is considered only after the Board has decided to permit the abandonment.
The formal trail use request must include a statement of willingness to assume financial responsibility for the property, and the trail use proponent must explicitly agree to assume responsibility for paying taxes and for any liability.
When the Board has decided that an abandonment will be permitted on a particular line, and a trail use request has been received regarding that line, the railroad must notify the Board of whether it is willing to negotiate a trail use agreement. If the railroad declines to negotiate, the abandonment will proceed as if no trail use request was ever filed.
On the other hand, if the railroad agrees to negotiate and no offer of financial assistance to continue rail service on the line is received, the Board will impose a trail condition which gives the trail use proponent time to negotiate a trail use agreement with the railroad. Offers of financial assistance take priority over trails use requests, because they are offers to continue actual rail service on the line.
The Board has no involvement in the negotiations between the railroad and the trail use proponent. It does not analyze, approve, or set the terms of trail use agreements. If a trail use agreement is reached, the parties may implement it without further Board action. If no trail use agreement is reached, the trail condition expires and the line may be fully abandoned.
The Board is not authorized to regulate activities over the actual trail, and the Board has no authority to deny the trail use request if the statute has been properly invoked and the railroad has consented to negotiate. In short, the Board's jurisdiction is ministerial, and the Board cannot decide on whether or not railbanking or trail use is desirable.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC H.R. 2438, if enacted, would dramatically alter the Board's ministerial role under the Trails Act. Under the current statute, the Board must impose a trail condition permitting interim trail use on a rail line approved for abandonment whenever the statutory criteria are met. The Board has no discretionary decisionmaking authority in this area and no substantive authority, other than to carry out the essentially automatic provisions of the statute. Furthermore, the Board is not authorized to regulate a trail and its use.
Under the proposed bill, however, the Board's ability to impose a trail condition would become discretionary; that is, the Board would be required to seek to determine if trail use is appropriate in a particular case. Requiring the Board to approve and oversee particular trails in this manner would be beyond the Board's primary mission, which is to oversee the economic regulation of railroads, motor carriers, pipelines, and non-contiguous domestic water trade. The Board has no particular expertise or knowledge concerning recreational trails. Congress only gave the agency a part to play in the formation of trails because of the railbanking element of the Trails Act.
Furthermore, the Board has limited resources. It currently has only around 130 employees to handle approximately 500 pending cases. The Board lacks the staff that would be required to approve and oversee individual trail use requests. In short, involving the Board in trail use approvals would be neither consistent with the agency's mandate, nor feasible given its existing resources and expertise.
H.R. 2438 also raises additional concerns. First, the bill could result in a delay of the exercise of a railroad's right to abandon lines that are no longer needed for current rail service until the Trails Act process under the legislation is completed. This would be counter to the mandate of the law that the Board now implements, which is to facilitate and expedite abandonments.
Second, the bill provides no legal standards by which the Board is to exercise the discretion the agency would be given with respect to the granting of trail authority. This could create inconsistency in the granting of trail use authority and vulnerability with respect to likely judicial appeals.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Third, the bill raises the possibility of our having to do an environmental review under NEPA in every case in which a trail proposal is made. Such a requirement would impose additional burdens on the already strained resources of the Board.
Finally, the bill creates confusion within the provision eliminating Federal preemption by appearing to give the vesting of any reversionary property interests pursuant to State law priority over the creation of any trail and railbanking. This provision could render the exercise of the Board's discretion with regard to trail use fruitless in many cases, because there could be no trails under the proposed bill if there would be a reversion under State law.
In summary, the role that the Board plays under the Trails Act is not intended to promote a position on the issue of the conflict between reversionary property rights and trails. The Board's existing responsibilities with respect to trails are ministerial and do not and are not intended to resolve this conflict from a policy perspective.
However, the proposed bill appears to impose a burdensome regulatory responsibility on the Board to determine whether a trail should be created that could be rendered a nullity, in many cases, by the operation of State law giving effect to reversionary property rights. This exercise, which is not consistent with the Board's primary mission, would be time-consuming and a strain on its already limited resources, and could ultimately be a fruitless effort by the Board.
This concludes my oral remarks, and I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Kitay may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
Questions for our witnesses? I'll limit the members to 5 minutes; the gentleman from American Samoa.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Kitayam I pronouncing the name correctly?
Ms. KITAY. Yes.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I think, basically, as a matter of our national policy, not so much in the area of the fact that at one time we've had 270,000 miles of railroad corridors all over the country, and now because of abandonments since 1990, it's only 141,000and correct me as I'm going along on the history of our railway system. We're having a difficult time even getting Amtrak on the track, as far as getting proper appropriations and funding for the process.
My question is, isn't it the bottom linebecause of the Congress seeing this as our national policythat we have to preserve these easements so that at one time, or maybe sometime in the future, that if our railroad system would have a need for these easements to go back, if there's a need economically?
Ms. KITAY. Yes. In the Preseault case in the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court clearly found and approved the railbanking purpose of the statute, and if there is railbanking, then the line remains within the national transportation system and remains available to be restored to rail service. So that is clearly a policy of the existing Trails Act.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Then the Congress turned around and made it very technical, saying it's still for public use because it's an easement and there's really not been an absolutewhat do you call italienationof the land that is used as an easement by these railroads. Am I correct? So instead of doing it, now we come out with this system of putting in trails, rather than giving back the lands to the original owners. Because it seems to me that this is the heart of Congressman Ryun's bill; they don't mind having trails, but they do want to be compensated after abandonment. This is what I sense, and correct me if I'm wrong on this.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. KITAY. No; I think that's correct. I think under the existing statute we have no discretion. We have to stop the abandonment. The abandonment doesn't go forward if there is a proposal for trail use, assuming that the statutory criteria are met. And the Supreme Court, in the Preseault case, found that the landowner's right was to seek compensation, by filing an action in the Claims Court, and there have been several of those actions that have been filed and are pending.
This statute would change that becauseor at least it can be read to change that, to suggest thatwhere there are easements and where the easements would be extinguished under State law, you'd never get to the trail in the first place.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. And I'm sorry Mr. Ryun is not here, but I think there was an additional condition that if these landowners get their land back, they can then develop the land in some other form different from the trails system.
Ms. KITAY. Right. Well, once there is an abandonment and once the abandonment authority is exercised, then the land is no longer within the national transportation system and it can be developed for any use, and the right-of-way would have to be re-acquired to bring it back as a rail line, which is often a very costly undertaking.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Let's say there's a corridor 100 miles long, and the landowner gets it backmaybe 50 miles of that. Obviously, this is going to break the trail system, because the landowner may decide, ''Well, I want to develop this 50 miles; it belongs to me as a landowner.'' What is this going to do to the railway system, as far as the original intent of the Congress? We're not going to have a rail system.
Ms. KITAY. Well, there have been a few railroad rights-of-way that have been restored.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. OK, so in other words the railroads will just have to go around these landowners who say, ''Well, 50 miles belongs to me.'' And they're every much entitled to it as a landowner.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. KITAY. Well, I think it's
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. My question is how the railway system is going to redevelop itself should the railway system say, ''Well, we want to use the easements again because our railroad system in the country needs to be brought back to life again.''
Ms. KITAY. Well, there are ways; eminent domain is available, and there are other ways in which a railroad can acquire land. It's just more expensive and more cumbersome to do it that way than it would be under this kind of a statute.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Now don't get me wrong. I absolutely believe in the right of landowners to be duly compensated. But when the easements were taken, these landowners never received a cent from the Federal Government?
Ms. KITAY. I think it's not clear. They could have received money. We'd just have to go back to 1899 or what happened in 1910, and that's something that we don't know about. Presumably they paid less for their land than they would have if there hadn't been an easement or they got money from the railroad.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. They were compensated for fair market value. I mean, isn't this a Federal policy in the first place, that in a taking for a public purpose that the landowner should be compensated?
Mr. DETTMAR. Well, Congressman, landowners
Mr. HANSEN. State your name, please, for the record.
Mr. DETTMAR. I'm sorry; I'm Joseph Dettmar, the Deputy Director of the Office of Proceedings at the Surface Transportation Board.
Landowners have a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act in the Court of Claims, but as I believe as has already been stated, none of those claims have been successfully prosecuted; so no landowners have received any money for any land.
Ms. KITAY. Well, it's under the Fifth Amendment. They can bring a takings claim, not a tort claim. It's a takings claim under the Fifth Amendment, and in one case a taking was found, and the amount of damages has not yet been set. That is the Preseault case that arose out of the Supreme Court case, and there are several cases that are now pending. One is pending in the Federal Circuit, and there are two or three pending in the Claims Court now.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Chairman, my time is up. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. Are the landowners included in the negotiations with the trail proponents and the railroad?
Ms. KITAY. Not directly. The way the statute was drafted and the way it's been implemented by the Board, landowners get notice of the proposed abandonment and the possibility that a particular right-of-way can be used as a trail, but the voluntariness and the beginning of a negotiation process is between the trail proponent and the railway.
Mr. HANSEN. What's the history of this, then? Have landowners become an integral part of it? If they're given a notice, like we get notices of waterthings that somebody's doingthat's all they get?
Ms. KITAY. They get notice of proposed abandonments. They have participated in our abandonment proceedings before the Board; they have challenged several decisions where we imposed trail conditions in the courts, with varying degrees of success.
Mr. HANSEN. But they're only a party if they become an intervenor then; is that right?
Ms. KITAY. They can file comments and participate in ouryes; but that's correct; that's the way the statute was written.
Mr. HANSEN. So that's like John Q. Anybody. I mean, I could do that in Salt Lake City. I could intervene on an issue in Hutchinson, Kansas if I so desired. I mean, anybody can do that. So they're not given any particular greater standing than anybody else; is that right?
Ms. KITAY. That's right. In our proceedings, that's right.
Mr. HANSEN. Oh, I see. The gentlelady fromthe gentleman from Iowa
Mr. RYUN. If you could yield for a minute.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My question is, have any interim use requests been considered or denied as a result of landowner appeal?
Ms. KITAY. No. Well, there are cases where we have found that the abandonment had been fully exercised prior to an imposition of a trail condition, and we have revoked trail authority on that ground. And we have also made it clear that if a landowner or anyone else comes in and shows that the statutory requirements of the Trails Act are not being met, that we will revoke trail conditions.
Mr. RYUN. Well, no, because the landowner owns the land, and that's what we're trying to establish here.
Ms. KITAY. Right. The landI think the way that the statute was written and the way that the board has implemented the statute is that the landowner's real right is to go to court and bring a takings claim.
Mr. RYUN. May I make a point on that? That's what we were discussing earlier, that they can go to court, but the cost of going to court and coming back here exceeds the actual cost of the land. In many cases it would cost them a great deal of money. In fact, I gave a point earlier that it can cost as much as $100,000 for land, let's say, that's worth $30,000, in addition to the number of years that it's tied up in court. So it is extremely difficult for the landowner to be able to do this process.
Mr. HANSEN. That was on my time.
The gentlelady from Washington.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think my first question is for Ms. Stevensonand I could be confused, but I don't think so, because I've gone through some of these. But you stated in your testimony that railbanking is entirely voluntary between railroads and local communities. And that railbanking requires consensusis what you saidamong local community leaders and their constituents.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm really not aware of the provisions of section 8(d) that prevent the conversion of railroads, or railways, into recreational trails, absent community or constituent consensus. So I guess, how does this statute require consensus from local communities, which is part of your testimony?
Ms. STEVENSON. I think actually that, when Ms. Kitay explained her testimony, hers probably was more clear than what we had written. It doesn't require total consensus from the committee; it requires an agreement between the railroad and the community group, or the rail proponent in order for a railbanking provision to go ahead.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. OK. So it isn't necessarily consensus; it's just an agreement of the parties present?
Ms. STEVENSON. Consensus between the two parties
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Just the two parties.
Ms. STEVENSON. [continuing] not necessarily consensus of the entire community. That's correct.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. OK. So the landowners themselves could be excluded from this consensus?
Ms. STEVENSON. That's correct.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Thank you.
I would reserve the balance on my time for the proponent of this particular bill.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
The gentleman from Puerto Rico.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO. I have no questions, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from Kansas, do you have any questions?
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The young lady from California. We'll recognize you for 5 minutes.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Stevenson, would it be all right if Superintendent Don Neubacher sat with you?
Ms. STEVENSON. It would be a pleasure.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you very much.
My question really is directed to him, because it's about the history of the Point Reyes National Seashore as it was originally proposed.
Mr. Neubacher, it's my understanding thatand you weren't there then; you're way younger than I am, but you know the history better than I. It's my understanding that there was a lot of opposition when the initial Point Reyes National Seashore was proposed. This opposition was based on the fears of the bill's consequences and of intrusion of Federal Government in a way of life.
I'd like to know, do we still face those worries with the local ranches within that area?
Mr. NEUBACHER. Unequivocally no. Actually, we have a very positive relationship with the ranchers with inside the National Seashore at this point in time. We still have 18 ranchers operating, and we get along extremely well. In fact, there waspart of the original legislation that prohibited from purchasing any of those ranch complexes; is later the ranchers came to Congress, and ask for authority to work a little bit more closely with us, and gave us the authority to buy interest in those lands to.
To this day we still have about 20,000 plus acres of active ranching going on in Point Reyes National Seashore, and again, it's extremely compatible, and as your proposing this bill, we endorse the idea of extending that to the East Side of Tomales Bay because of the positive relationship.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, would you take a step across the bay now to the farmland protection area, and talk about how that would enhance our Federal investment in the national park.
Mr. NEUBACHER. The Tomales Bay estuary systemwhich is really one of the largest on the west coastis extremely productive. There's like 50,000 shore birds. We have Coho salmon, we have steelhead. Ten percent of the Coho population left in Californiagoes up Waganeigus Creek, which comes out of Tomales Bay.
We have found over time that again this relationship with the pastoral setting is very compatible with the park setting. What we don't wantthere is numerous studies that urbanization actually adds more deterioration to the environment. So we'd like to work with the local community. And this was really initiated by the local community to ensure that the pastoral setting continues, because again, we have a very clean estuary; we have a good system; it's working, and want to ensure that it continues into perpetuity.
Ms. WOOLSEY. OK, thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. Superintendent, how many acres have you purchased since establishment of the park?
Mr. NEUBACHER. Pardon me?
Mr. HANSEN. How many acres have been purchased since the park was established?
Mr. NEUBACHER. The total authorization for Point Reyes is 71,000, and we've purchased about 65,000. The rest is primarilyother agencies own it. For example, the Coastguard. And there were some agreements with AT&T that we wouldn't purchase that land. Actually, the outstanding land that we haven't purchased, the very small parcels; we're probably going to do thoseactually, our land protection plan calls for less than fee acquisition. Total outstanding is 200 to 300 acres.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. How much would that be agricultural ground?
Mr. NEUBACHER. Left?
Mr. HANSEN. Yes.
Mr. NEUBACHER. None.
Mr. HANSEN. None? How much agricultural ground has been purchased?
Mr. NEUBACHER. Actually, I'd have to submit that for the record. The original pastoral zone created by the legislation was 26,000. And we did purchase more of that, and I could look that up, but I don't know the total acres initially.
Mr. HANSEN. At one time was this all agricultural land?
Mr. NEUBACHER. A lot of the park was agricultural land. It is heavily wooded in the southern section of the park. In the initial concept for the park, when it was supported by the Board of Supervisors, they divided the park up into a public use area, and a pastoral zone. And we have really kept to that original agreement. And again, we've worked the ranching community. And one thing we're going to enter today is testimony from the ranchers that are in the park now, saying that we've treated fair, that we have a good relationship, and that they work well with us.
Mr. HANSEN. How much money does this cost the taxpayers?
Mr. NEUBACHER. The authorized ceiling for Point Reyes National Seashore is approximately $62 million
Mr. HANSEN. So you still have some
Mr. NEUBACHER. [continuing] the majority of that, $62.5 million.
Mr. HANSEN. So how much more do you feel you need to accomplish what would be in Mrs. Woolsey's bill?
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. NEUBACHER. With Woolsey's bill, actually the appraisalthe authorized ceiling in Woolsey's bill is $30 million. The appraisal that the Park Service didand this was a very rough appraisalthat we could purchase everything, which means the conservation easements and the 38,000 acresabout 2,000 of that is state landswith about $40 million. And again, there's already been a commitment of 11,000 acres, which is worth about $15 million. So the rest of the money would come from the match.
And again, this is a partnership. We were approached by the local communitythe partnership between the state, the local community, and the Federal Government. So what we're trying to do is do the Federal commitment, because we have such a significant resource here, next to Tomales Bay and in Point Reyes National Seashore.
Somebody mentioned earlier, the public truly is being served. We have 2.5 million visitors coming to this area, and we contribute about $107 million to the economy.
Mr. HANSEN. Well, what is the significance you point out? I mean, if we talk Yellowstone, we can all figure out what that is, the Grand Canyon. For those of us who haven't the opportunity to visit this park, give us a quick summation of the great significance on it.
Ms. STEVENSON. Well, if the gentleman will yield. You have to remember you've been invited out there many times.
Mr. NEUBACHER. And we would love to have you come out.
Mr. HANSEN. That's true. We're invited everywhere around the world, and it's just hard to prioritize it all.
Mr. NEUBACHER. The park's significance, reallywhen national seashores were established we were trying to protect scenic coastline, and within the park we have a lot of maritime history. We have 147 miles of hiking trails. We have wildlife that abounds. I mean, we serve a lot of visitors, so the recreational and scenic opportunities are phenomenal. And we also have the oldest shipwreck on the west coast. We have the St. Augustine. You may have read about it recently; we're trying to uncover it. It's where the first European contact occurred in California; Sir Francis Drake landed there in the 1500's. The significance overall for the resources, cultural and natural, are phenomenal, and of national significance.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. I'm not asking you to be a land appraiser, but the original Actwhat, it was $14 million. And yet you folks have spent $65 million. How do you feel $30 million will handle it all?
The rule of thumb around here is it takes longer and cost more on everything we do.
Mr. NEUBACHER. We can submit this for the record, but we've actually gone throughthe conservation easements have been purchased by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust. So we have a lot of history, and actually the prices to a certain extent have stabilized. We actually did an estimate for a conservation easement, we feel very certainand again, this was done by qualified appraisers. I personally believe that we'll do the job.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentlelady from Washington, did you want to reclaim any time?
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. I just had one question of Ms. Kitay. Am I saying that right?
Ms. KITAY. K-i-t-a-y.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Kitay. You made a comment, that I just wasn't sure if I understood it fully. You were concerned about NEPA review being required because of this particular bill. I guess I wanted to know why trails shouldn't beor should be exempt from NEPA review, or did I not understand what you were saying?
Ms. KITAY. Well, we had a court case involving NEPA, and whether we had to do a environmental analysis of every trail, and the 8th Circuit in a case called Goos v. ICC, found that because our role under the Trails Act is ministerial, there's no discretionary decisionmaking involved, and therefore NEPA is not triggered every time you have a trail proposal. And our concern here is that, if this bill were enacted, and the Board were given discretion regarding trail authority, that then you would have trails considered, or the licensing or approval of trails considered, to be major Federal actions requiring an environmental review under NEPA.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. LINDA SMITH. So the jury's out on whether or not I would support that or not. I think there should be a lot of review before there's a trail. But you would say that would get in the way of producing that trail, making it more difficult.
Ms. KITAY. I think the concern that the Board has is that that would impose additional burdens on our already strained resources, because we have so little staff, and so many pending cases; and that that would just create more cases that we had to do environmental assessments on or whatever.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. So you think trails should be exempt of most environmental assessments?
Ms. KITAY. Well, I think thatas I said, because under the current statute we don't exercise discretion
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. You don't have to now; you would have to then.
Ms. KITAY. We would have to under this bill.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from Maryland, any questions?
Mr. GILCHREST. Not at this moment that would probably make any sense, Mr. Chairman, because I'm late for the hearing, but I hope everything's going all right so far. I'll have some questions maybe for the next panel. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from American Samoa.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just wanted to ask the superintendent and then Ms. Stevenson for their comments further on H.R. 1995. I guess there's a saying that haste makes waste. And I just wanted to ask you, is there any conceivable issue that was not considered, in terms of the process that you've undertaken to review all the issues that were involved, where we've come now with Ms. Woolsey's proposed legislation?
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I mean, how long has this taken place as far as the consultations, and meetings? I mean, this wasn't done in a process of 3 months or 6 months, or
Mr. NEUBACHER. No, we're talking years. And I've beenActually I worked at Point Reyes National Seashore, I worked on another project; no I'm back. And I've been the superintendent there for approximately the last 3 years. And this started way before I got there, so we're talking 3 years plus. There's been a lot of discussions and consultations. And I have to admire Ms. Woolsey for actually all the work she's done working with the community. She's done a lot of public meetings.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. OK. So this is not a Democratic or Republican bill; this is a bill that's going to benefit the community there in Point Reyes.
Mr. NEUBACHER. Very much so, and there's tremendous broad-based support from the community organizations.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I yield to the gentlelady from
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you. I would like to ask, if the Chairman's not going to ask a question about clarifying the section of the bill you questioned earlier, if I should ask them. Or are you going to ask them?
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I will ask them myself.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Could you clarify that provision that was raised by the Chairman?
Mr. NEUBACHER. Yes. The intent of that section is clearly what Mr. Hansen stated, was that we could exchange lands outside the state. So under the current Policy Act we cannot do that; it would only be with inside the states. So that's why we worked with the Congresswoman to instate that. I mean, that'sin our opinion, would not make or break this bill. So if there's concern we wouldn't oppose a change.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. So in other words, Secretary Babbitt can exchange Escalante Monument in Utah with
Mr. NEUBACHER. I'm afraid so, I guess I'd have to say.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Go ahead, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. Why is that necessary to have that in the bill?
Mr. NEUBACHER. Well, we were tryingthere have been other cases where I've worked with the Park Service, that we have found lands in other states that we could not exchange that were really goodthe agricultural community would like to have had, but we just couldn't do it, and we had to go back to Congress for authority. So we thought we'd avoid that so we could exchange lands in another location if possible. It just gives us broader authority to do the job.
Mr. HANSEN. But in effect your amending FLPMA for this one particular area.
Mr. NEUBACHER. That's correct.
Mr. HANSEN. That's dangerous, too. I wouldn't count to heavily on that
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I think I'm still on my time, Mr. Chairman.
Now this is not the only exception of this proposed legislation, Ms. Stevenson. I mean, are there other instances where the secretary is authorized to do exchange of lands, or the department for that matter?
Ms. STEVENSON. I'm sorry, Mr. Faleomavaega, I don't know the answer to that; we'll have to provide it for the record.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Would you provide that for the record, because I thinkI do share the Chairman's concern if we're setting a precedent.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
We appreciate Evelyn Kitay and Kate Stevenson for being with us, and appreciate your testimony. We'll excuse you at this point. And Panel No. 3 is Nels J. Ackerson, The Ackerson Group; Richard Welsh, Executive Director of National Association of Reversionary Property Owners; Jayne Glosemeyer; and Howard Woodbury.
We appreciate the third panel being with us at this time. You know the rules. We're 2 hours and 15 minutes into this hearing. It's going a little slower than we'd plan.
Mr. Ackerson, we'll start with you, and just go across.
We'll give you each 5 minutes. Is that all right?
Mr. ACKERSON. That's fine, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. The floor is yours, as we say in our business.
Mr. ACKERSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I have submitted for the record a 7-page single-spaced statement of testimony, of which I will not have time to read.
Mr. HANSEN. Without objection, that will be included. And all of your testimonies in their completeness will be included in the record, and you would like to abbreviate your testimony, by all means, please do it.
Mr. ACKERSON. Thank you, I will do so.
STATEMENT OF NELS ACKERSON, ATTORNEY, THE ACKERSON GROUP
Mr. ACKERSON. Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I have the privilege of representing, individually and in class actions, now tens of thousands of landowners, homeowners, families, retirees, small businesses, farm organizations, and others, in about 15 states across the nation. Like the author of H.R. 2438, Mr. Ryun, many of my clients enjoy the outdoors and know the benefits of recreational trails. They also in many cases are conservationists.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What distinguishes my clients from others is that they own the land on which railroads once operated their trains, and upon which trails are now operating or proposed. They are not adjacent landowners; they are the landowners. They own the strips of land running through their farms or their yards, where trains once ran, every bit as much as any homeowner owns a backyard, a driveway, or a deck.
And so, members of the Committee, I want to ask this Committee to look at two different perspectives on the railroad corridors where trails have been proposed or are operating; not just the perspective down the corridor, but the perspective across the corridor.
The owner's perspective is different, because it is their land. They not only look down the abandoned railroad, but also across it. Looking cross the right-of-way they see the rest of their farm, reunited for a more efficient farming operation, now that the railroad has brought to an end the agreement that allowed railroad use on their land.
They see a backyard in which their children can play in safety and privacy. Sometimes they see a strip of land that has become a sanctuary for wildflowers, berry bushes, and wildlife which they would like preserved, free from asphalt surfaces and free from traffic.
In short, what my clients, the landowners, see, is their home, their farm, their land. Unfortunately, the perspective that has dominated much of the debate, and not a bad perspective, but a different perspectiveand it's only bad if it's the only perspectiveand that is the perspective down the corridor.
Railroad companies and trails advocates often fail to look at the other perspective, across the corridor. Railroads want to be paid for land they once used, regardless of whether they own it. Trails proponents see opportunities for recreational uses, and often view my clients as greedy or disgruntled neighbors, who are troublesome in their bothering to stop part of a trail; rather than as the owners of the trail that is to be taken without their consent and without their consultation for the purpose that they did not have in mind.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now those who look down the corridor, and only down the corridor, not only miss a beautiful view of life; they also miss the fundamental point that we learned in kindergarten: you shouldn't take something that is not yours without first asking. That's the first principle. The other is, you should pay for what you take. The perspective down the corridorwhen it is the exclusive perspectiveturns a blind eye to those who own the land. A trail proponent in zeal to establish a recreational trail may presume that the railroad, rather than the real landowner, should be approached and paid for the land. The railroad of course likely will be happy to oblige. It's a rule of human nature I thinkeven in this citythat if you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can often count on Paul for support.
Thus the real landowners are taken out of any involvement whatsoever in what happens to their land. That is the perspective that has been fostered and maintained by the present law. Owners of the land to be taken for a trail don't even know about these abandonments in many many cases. Some of my clients who own farms or little homes along abandoned railroad corridors don't read the Federal Register every day. They don't get a second notice. Some of them have no idea what's happened until it's done. That is why the issues that are addressed in this bill must be addressed seriously.
H.R. 2438 provides a way to restore balance among the various pubic and private interests that are affected by the National Trail System Act. Public policy should recognize and protect the legitimate interests of persons whose land is taken for a new public purpose, and whose lives and the lives of their families will be changed forever as a result.
Those persons who are the most affected should at the very least, have a significant role in the process, be given protection against the loss of security and privacy, and have access to traditional land law to enforce their property rights. The conservation, recreation, and even national security objectives of the National Trail System Actand incidentally, I would like to address those national security issues if the time will permitthose objectives can be accomplished without sacrificing what has been the very fabric of society embedded in the Constitution.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We don't need to sacrifice constitutional safeguards. We don't need to eliminate the roles of state and local government. And we don't need to violate the simple principle, that we should never take what is ours without first asking, and we should pay for what we take.
I believe my time is up, unfortunately. I have addressed in my written statement a number of misconceptions about the law and about the facts, which I would be happy to address if anyone has questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ackerson may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you very much. Mr. Welsh.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD WELSH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REVERSIONARY PROPERTY OWNERS
Mr. WELSH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee.
Mr. HANSEN. Would you move the mike over in front, if you would, please.
Mr. WELSH. Oh.
Mr. HANSEN. Yes, right there. Thank you.
Mr. WELSH. Usually with my hearing problem I talked loud enough for everybody to hear within a mile.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I'm Richard Welsh, the Executive Director of National Association of Reversionary Property Owners, the non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of reversionary property rights for the tens of thousands of property owners throughout the country.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC NARPO currently is working with aggrieved property owners in 47 states. To date there is over 60,000 property owners throughout the country affected by this rails-to-trails law. Regardless of the intentions of the supporters of the rails-to-trails movement, rails-to-trails as passed by Congress and implemented by Federal agencies, and private entities I might add, has become a terrible detriment to the individual and constitutional property rights of members of our United States. H.R. 2438 will go a long way to right a major flaw in the rails-to-trails law.
When Congress passed the original rails-to-trails law in 1983, the new railbanking policy preempted state property laws. Specifically, Congressman Ryun's bill will eliminate this preemption. This will not be the death of the rails-to-trails movement, as the trails owners insist. Instead Rails-to-Trails project sponsors can acquire land like any other entity, seeking specified land for public use. Government and private groups can pay for the land needed from the property owners to develop the trails. The rails-to-trails law has programmed over 3,600 miles, across 62,000 pieces of private property, without paying one cent of compensation for the loss of rights; rights which the U.S. Supreme Court set seven and a half years ago for due compensation. Jayne Glosemeyer sitting on my left here will testify to that effect now.
Because the Rails-to-Trails Act preempt state property law of reversion, certain other state and Federal laws lose their application. A glaring case of laws being abrogated due to the Rails-to-Trails Act occurred near Park City, Utah in 1989, and still exists today. When Union Pacific Railroad abandoned their line in Echo, Utah to Park City, abutting owners expressed concerned about the nearby tailing piles from the old Silver King mine. The tailing piles lie directly on the right-of-way and imposed an environmental risk at that time, and even today still do.
The BLM hazardous material unit ordered an environmental survey to be conducted on the right-of-way, which was proposed for the trail. The survey reported that voluminous amounts of arsenic, mercury, lead, were present, and leeching into the soil and going into the air. The report warned that children would be susceptible to airborne carcinogens emanating from the tailing piles. Because of the exemption from state and Federal environmental laws through this Trails Actexcuse me. Because of the exemption from state and Federal environmental review of trails, nothing was done, and the trail was built within 20 feet of the exposed tailing piles. If Park City would have had to abide by the state reversionary laws, more oversight of the project would have occurred, and polluted land most assuredly would have been cleaned up.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of the worst aspects of the Rails-to-Trails Act is that private entities can designate and develop trails without ever being subject to the electorate. In a case near Lewiston, Idaho, a rail salvage company acquired an interest in a long-abandoned railroad. When the property owners heard that a trail might be built on the rail bed they tried to find out who owned the property and who had control over it. NARPO was finally able to determine that the railroad was abandoned in 1985, and already the land had reverted to the abutting property owners. But during this confusion the trails group sold quit claim deeds to the non-suspecting property owners that already owned the land.
One way property owners can fight to regain the use of their land, is to convince local elected officials to oppose rails-to-trails projects. It is difficult to succeed however, when an advantage is provided to the trails group over landowners, through the Federal law. In almost every instance property owners do not know about a forthcoming project until the trail is being built through their property. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, who is going to testify later, supports this non-notification of property owners. Into the record as part of my testimony today is the letter from the RTC office in Washington, DC, here to an Emmet, Idaho official, where the RTC advocates keeping the property owners in the dark until the funding and authorization for the trail is approved. The sad part is, RTC receives Federal program money to be used to collude against property owners.
Interim Trail Use designation and the arbitrary control by a trails groups has had detrimental affect to property rights. After being designated an Interim Trail User under the Rails-to-Trails Act, an entity can take complete control of the right-of-way, even though it might be 400 feet wide. The negotiations between the trail use entity and the abandoning railroad can go on for years. The Service Transportation Board exerts no oversight before or after issuing the trail use agreement. Meanwhile, the abutting owners do not know who's controlling it and who to address their complaints to.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC H.R. 2438 will prevent the preemption of state property law. Groups interested in making trails would have to abide by state reversionary property law. Abiding by the state law would solve all the above-mentioned problems before they occur. It a state or local government want to develop a trail they could condemn the right-of-way and pay the property owner. This is the way our law is supposed to work.
Rails-to-Trails was written to effectively extinguish reversionary rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has said these rights can be taken. The court said the Constitution requires compensation. To date nobody has been paid. The property owner, Mr. Preseault from Vermont, has been waiting, and really since 1980, when his property was originally taken, and is now a trail.
I want to thank the committee, and I'd be glad to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Welsh may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Welsh.
STATEMENT OF JANE GLOSEMEYER, LANDOWNER
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am Jayne Glosemeyer, a landowner from Marthasville, Missouri. I came here today to tell you that the Rails-to-Trails Act may produce trails, but in the process it destroys things much more precious; the safety and security one has in their property, and a future hope of passing down one's heritage to their children. My husband and I learned of this government policy that prevents us from using our own land, by reading the Sports section of the ''St. Louis Post Dispatch.'' Landowner notification is not a provision of the Rails-to-Trails Act.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We own and operate a farm that has been in our family for over 100 years. My great uncle, granted and recorded an easement in 1889 to the Cleveland, St. Louis, and Kansas City Railroad Companyof which I hold a copyallowing 12 acres to be used for the purpose of a right-of-way for a railroad, and for no other purpose. Today, instead of a railroad, which my family agreed to, I now have a state park running through the middle of my farm.
A landowner group, made up of community members, formed with me and spent over $150,000 to fight for our property in state court, Federal court, U.S. Supreme Court, and now the U.S. Court of Claims. Over ten and a half years of my life has been spent in some form of litigation over land that I own, and I have a deed to it. This confiscation of private land for public use has left me feeling like a second class citizen. Neither the Missouri Constitution, nor Missouri state statutes have protected me.
The Rails-to-Trails Act is a scam, contrived by special interest trails groups to void state railway abandonment law in order to use my land for their purposes. Trail proponents state in a September 1988 issue of The Bay State Trail Riders Association, that railbanking is a myth, and a way to get old railroads without having to pay for them. Railroad companies welcome the effects of this law, because they receive money for land they do not own, nor have the right to sell. According to the Rails-to-Trails Act my legal contract with the railroad company is a useless sheet of paper, and I do not understand why Congress would pass a law that negates legal contracts and renders state property law useless.
As a result of the Rails-to-Trails Act, I have found that I have not only lost my property rights, but I am also forced to carry an undue financial burden to provide recreational space for the general public. The Katy Trail sits 30 yards outside my front door, and 2 feet from our livestock's pens and sheds. In addition to the privacy I've lost because of the trail, I am forced to rent housing facilities for my livestock, 2 miles from our farm. The potential for liability and disease from human contact with our livestock has caused us to move our animals and prevented us from expanding our livestock operation. Just imagine, owning plenty of land to operate and expand our farmour hog farmonly to have government, a government program force us to rent land because the program has made our land unfit.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now that a recreational trail exists in the railroad's place, we face significant exposure to liability arising from the uncontrolled trespass of the public, or generally ignorant of the dangers of interfering with the breeding habits of animals. Our once peaceful farm was at risk of being sued should a trail user be injured by an animal.
One afternoon I returned home to find a woman off her bicycle, sitting in the shade of our shed, while her child chased one of my piglets around the field. I shudder to think what would have happened to that child if the piglet had squealed and the 600 pound sow came to the rescue of her baby.
Representative Jim Ryun's bill, the Railway Abandonment Clarification Act, will honor state property law, and prevent the Federal preemption of state law, concerning how railway abandonments are treated. Since it will remove the Federal mandate regarding the treatment of abandonment railways and designation of recreational trails, I will be free to deal with the State of Missouri. As you may know, due to the lobbying efforts of the landowners along the abandoned Katy Rail line, the State of Missouri struggled with the issue of whether to proceed with the Katy Trail, and with that I do not object. I do object however, when the Federal Government grants to special interest groups and railroads, both non-public entities, the power and the authority to claim my land as their own to do what they wish.
The Railway Abandonment Clarification Act removes the Federal bias that converts abandoned railways into trails over the rights of property owners. Since it is my land, I want control over how it is used. Anyone, including the State of Missouri, should consult me first to ask permission to use my land. I support Jim Ryun's bill, and encourage its immediate consideration by the Committee, and I thank you for this opportunity to be here. And I'd be happy to answer questions later.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Glosemeyer may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF HOWARD WOODBURY, LANDOWNER
Mr. WOODBURY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee on this issue that directly affects my farm and family. Representative Ryun's bill, H.R. 2438, the Railway Abandonment Clarification Act, is a sensible solution to the problem created when bikers, hikers, and horseback riders want to put a trail on my land where there used to be railroad tracks.
My name is Howard Woodbury, and my brother, father and I operate a diversified farm of 4,000 acres in Eastern Kansas. On my farm we raise wheat, corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, and cattle. My grandfather bought this farm more than 50 years ago when the Missouri Pacific Railroad operated the rail line that runs through my land. Originally, the railroad was build in 1886 and served Forbes Field in Topeka when it was an air force base. After Forbes Field became an Air National guard base the rail line was used to service some farm cooperatives in Northern Osage County, but no longer continued north into Topeka. The particular line that cuts across my property is a 15-mile spur from Lomax to Overbrook, off of the Union Pacific line out of Kansas City.
When my grandfather bought our farm he understood that there were existing easements for railroad purposes on the land. My grandfather understood, and it has been long understood in Kansas, that railroads hold no interest in the land except as an easement. The Rails-to-Trails Act, however, has put in jeopardy the owner's property rights to his land which holds an easement. Kansas Law 66525 states, any conveyance by any railroad company of any actual or purported right, title, or interest in property, acquired in strips for right-of-way to any party other than the owner of the servient estate, shall be null and void, unless such conveyance is made with a manifestation of intent that the railroad company's successor shall maintain the railroad operations on such right-of-way, and railroad owns marketable title for such purpose. What that means is, that unless the railroad sells the right-of-way to another railroad, the easement expires, and I regain the use of my land. In fact, my property held another railway that was abandoned some time in the 1920's. Consistent with Kansas state law, the use of that land reverted back to my farm, and today I use that land to grow hay to feed my cattle and other livestock.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some time in 1984 or 1985 a flood caused the washout of the Missouri Pacific railway north of my farm, between Overbrook and Michigan Valley. Because the line was not heavily used and probably did not generate too much business for the railroad, the washout was not repaired, and rail service was discontinued on the line. The Overbrook co-op sued the Missouri Pacific to repair the washout, and reinstate rail service for their grain elevators. The Union Pacific railroad bought the railway shortly after the rail service returned on the line. This was particularly memorable because since the washout repair the railway was not as sturdy as before, and trains would travel up and down the line at approximately 8 to 10 miles an hour, blowing their whistles as they went.
In 1993, rail service was permanently discontinued, and the tracks and ties were removed in 1996. Around this same time rumors began that the railway was to be converted into a trail for horseback riders and recreational users. Neighboring farms like mine, which would be affected by this conversion were concerned. We had seen and were aware that another abandoned railway south of Topeka was dedicated to one of these recreational trails and never amounted to much. The right-of-way is not developed, not maintained, and seems like a big waste of money, property, and other resources.
My family and I do not want our land to be turned into an eyesore since, according to state law, I should be able to use the land to graze my cattle. Some landowners from surrounding towns met together, but we were told if we wanted to use our property it would be a long, drawn-out and expensive legal fight. In addition, the trail manager, who's the director of the Kansas Horsemen Foundation, and the former director of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks, told us that they owned the land. He further stated that anyone fencing off the corridor or attempting to use the land could be arrested. Also the trail manager said that the trail was opened for public use, even though it had not been developed, and he would not be responsible to keep out trespassers. Our fears about our land are becoming quickly realized. It is not maintained, it has not been developed, and trespassers are a constant problem. Because the right-of-way has become a kind of no man's land, heavy rains have shifted rock and soil, and damaged some of the fencing. I took it upon myself to repair the fencing to keep my cattle safe, but have yet to be reimbursed by the trail manager. I would like to use my land, keep it maintained, and determine its use for myself.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What really gets under my skin is the fact that by all rights this land is mine, and I should be able to do with it what I want.
Representative Ryun's bill makes it clear that the Federal Government does not preempt state law, with respect to the establishment of an the easement, or right-of-way, or property interest. The people of Kansas have the good sense to develop laws and regulations under which everyone can operate. And if we have a problem, I can get to the courthouse or the state house, without having to travel all the way to Washington, DC to address my grievances. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Woodbury may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, sir.
We'll now turn to the members of the Committee for questions for this panel.
The gentleman from American Samoa is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ackerson, I think you're the legal scholar here among the panelists, and I'd like to ask just one or two questions if I may.
I take the position that you suggested to the members of the Subcommittee that we ought to put ourselves in the position of the landowner, so let me ask you this.
Were the landowners compensated at the time of the taking, of the easements, historically?
Mr. ACKERSON. In some casesif you're speaking of easements alonein some cases the landowners were compensated for what was taken, and that was only the right to cross the land. They were not compensated for the ownership of the land. In other instances, according to the records, there was no compensation at all. In many of the cases which we have involving railroads, the railroads cannot prove that they ever paid anything for the land, but in some cases, no doubt, they did. And let me say, in some cases there's also no doubt that the railroads actually bought the fee simple interest in the land. That's not what we're talking about today.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But the answer to your question then, were the landowners compensated for their land? No, they were not. They were compensated if an easement was given; they were compensated for a right to cross the land with the railroad. And at the risk of saying too much here, let me just say, there was a lot of reason for that. When most of these railroads were built the communities welcomed them because they would carry their crops, and unite their communities.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. It's an economic benefit, obviously.
Mr. ACKERSON. That's right. And so the railroad provided the benefit, completely different from what now might be used as an recreational benefit to someone else.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I'm trying to gather again what you just stated earlier. There was compensation but in different circumstances.
Mr. ACKERSON. Well, there's compensation for what was taken, but there was not compensation
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. It was a mixed bag.
Mr. ACKERSON. [continuing] there was not compensation for a use after the railroad was abandoned. There was never compensation for that.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. In the most instances where these lands were involved if a railroad wants to build a rail system through my land would I have to get permission from the state government to contract with the railroad?
Mr. ACKERSON. Most typically in the last century when railroads were chartered they were given limited powers of eminent domain. And that is, they could either bargain with the landowners, or they could cause eminent domain to be exercised, and they could take the land. But they could only take it after paying for it, and after having a determination that it was, (a) a legitimate public use; and (b) that a fair price was being paid.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. So your whole point of argument here, is that if it was taken for a public purpose, and then after the railroad has no longer the need for the use as a public purpose, the land should revert back to the landowners. That's the basis of your argument.
Mr. ACKERSON. Not only that, but for a specific public purposeand the specific public purpose was to operate a railroad. There are other public purposes to operate power lines, to operate telecommunications lines, to operateto have sewers, to have public roads. These particular easements were for one purpose only, and that was to operate a railroad. That's what they bought or that's what they condemned in most of the instances we're talking about.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Could you also share with the Committee. I hear 100 feet, 200 feet, 15 feet; what exactly is the lateral distance involved here. I notice the tracks. It's only about 15 feet from that home there.
Mr. ACKERSON. This particular home happens to be in Leelanau County, Michigan, and you're right, that is a proposed trail. It's being developed as a trail right now, and it's about 15 feet from the family's kitchen. There's another home right down from the line from that, where it's 15 feet from the bedroom and the kitchen, and the wife and the family was shocked to look out her kitchen window one morning to see a man on a horse right outside looking in upon her. That's the kind of invasion of privacy that some of these people
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. So in the process of taking, there are inconsistencies, even on the property involved heresome involved 100 feet, some 200 feet, some 10 feet from
Mr. ACKERSON. Typically through the plains and in the west they're wider than in the east. They range from 20 feet at the very minimum to more than 100, sometimes 200 feet.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. So your suggestion is that, rather than the railroads dealing with the landowners, the trail proponent should deal with the landowners, if they want trails built on their land.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Mr. Chair?
Mr. ACKERSON. Whoever wants to use the land
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Could the gentleman yield?
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I'd be glad to yield.
Mr. ACKERSON. If I may just
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Please go ahead.
Mr. ACKERSON. [continuing] just say, whoever wants to use the land, should deal with the person who owns the land. I guess that's the principle.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I'd gladly yield.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. I think what you're arguing for is local control who could deal with this a lot better than we can here. And I think the argument of the proponents is that, we shouldn't violate local land use or state land use. And they could probably better deal with this than we could deal here.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. But I think one of the problems that I'm faced withand this goes right down to the bottom line of our total mass transit system. As a matter of policy, where the railroad system or the industry comes into play, if they're going to be doing abandonments simply becausethe railway is in trouble. I don't know if I'm right it this.
At one time we had 290,000 miles of railway. It was the most active form of transportation. America now would rather ride in their cars than take the train. And this is the reason why we don't have 125-mile bullet trains in our country, because simply we're not into the mass transit system as are most other developed countries.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My question is, it goes right to the fundamental issue that Congress has to make that decision, as an overall Federal policy, are we going to continue having a railway system in place, whether or not by abandonment now, or in the coming 25 years or 30 years? Are we still going to be having some kind of railroad tracks to maintain this form of transportation. And maybe our friends from Conrail will respond to that when they testify. But that's my concern that we have here.
Mr. ACKERSON. May I offer
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Please, by all means.
Mr. ACKERSON. The situation that we have under the National Trail System Act right now, it seems to me puts the railway system, even for national security purposes, at great risk. Because there was a comment made earlier that these agreements for trail use are voluntary agreements. Well, they're voluntary agreements between a railroad and a trail group. It's like three people sayingor two people saying, let's you and me take that fellow's land. It's not voluntary for the landowner, and it's not even supervised by the U.S. Government. So if there is a national security risk, that risk is there now. Unless a railroad and a trail group decide to preserve something, the Surface Transportation Board says it has no discretion.
Now in terms of just preserving the railroad system for other purposesand Mr. Faleomavaega, you mentioned a while ago that you were concerned about a 5-acre strip interrupting an entire trail if everyone else wanted the trail.
Well, there still can be an opportunity to accomplish that in the traditional manner that our Constitution and our laws have directed, including the laws of this Congress. And that is, if there is a legitimate public purpose, first establish it, and then allow condemnation to go forward. If there's onlyif as some of the trail proponent say, 70, 80, 90 percent support it, then what is stopping it from being done in the traditional manner? And I tell you what is stopping it. Right now it's a matter of money. It can be acquired cheaper from the people who don't own itthe railroadsthan it can be from those who do.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. It can also be said by the same token, because there was a commonality of an economic interest. Everybody welcomed the railroads. So now that because of abandonmentbecause of economic reasons, now the whole picture has changed, and this is where we're at right now.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. The time has expired.
The gentlelady from Washington.
Mrs. LINDA SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to make a comment to begin with. What I'm seeing is the acquisition and the immediate taking out of the rails, as quickly as possible, and sometimes changing of the structure around it to ensure they will not be rails again in our area. So, I can understand the concern. Yet, what we're dealing with today are property owners who are not considered in the decisions at all. So my concern with the property owners is that they're being told that by default that a greater good than their constitutional rights needs to happen, whether it be for maintaining the railroads or whether it be for maintaining trails, they're somewhere in between.
So I guess my argument today is that we can't leave them in between. They do have a superior right under the Constitution to their rights of property, and that's why we're here today for this particular bill.
I do want to commend the author for the superior job he's done. There's a lot of bills before Congress right now, and to get this up in the last 2 weeks he must have had a pretty compelling argument for the chair. But I know his passion for the rights of the property owner are strong, and he is representing the folks very well in his district on this issue.
I will just not ask any more questions. I don't think there are too many questions on this particular issue, except his bill should go forward to push the issue of protecting private property rights, which is the prime purpose of the sponsor. Thank you.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
Gentlelady from California have any questions for this panel?
Ms. WOOLSEY. No thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. Gentleman from Kansas.
Mr. RYUN. If I may, I'd like to ask Ms. Glosemeyer a few questions. We've been discussing rights, if you will, and the entire trails issue.
Can you perhaps touch a little bit on, on what it has cost you in terms of the moving of our livestock to another location; some of the costs that are involved, the renting of additional land?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. It cost us basically $100 a month, or $100 a weekI'm sorryto rent housing facilities for our livestock. And that also creates the problem of bringing feed. We have the feed at our farm, and we have to haul it to the 2 miles away, which is several times a week we have to do this.
Mr. RYUN. I think it's interesting to note that when the actual railroad was running through, your animals were very comfortable with the railroad, and were accustomed to the sounds, and yet as a result of this
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. There's were no problem with the railroad.
Mr. RYUN. [continuing] new transition, you've had to make quite a bit of adjustment.
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. What caused us to have to movelike I said in my testimonywas the threat of the trespass, which we did not have when the railroad was there. And we felt no hindrance to improving our farm and our livestock management.
Mr. RYUN. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Woodbury, Glosemeyerif I'm saying that righthow much of your farmswhat would be the acreage size that we're talking about?
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GLOSEMEYER. The trail is approximately a mile long through our farm, and approximately 100 feet wide, which would convert to about 12 acres of land.
Mr. HANSEN. And you stated in your testimony you had fee title to that, is that right? You have the deed to it?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. Yes, we have the deed, and we also have the easement that was granted.
Mr. HANSEN. Do you pay taxes on that area?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. We paid taxes up until 1985, when the State of Missouri determined that, because it was a railroad that as a landowner I should not pay the tax. If a tax were levied on it, I would be paying it, yes.
Mr. HANSEN. You hold title to it, but you don't pay taxes on it, is that right?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. I did up until 1985.
Mr. HANSEN. Up until 1985. Who does pay taxes, anybody?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. No. The railroad companyexcuse me. The railroad company was levied at a tax on the property, and I believe now the State of Missouri makes a payment in lieu of taxes.
Mr. HANSEN. So any citizen can go on that property now, is that right?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. Yes. It is opened to the general public, yes.
Mr. HANSEN. Is this about the same similar state with you, Mr. Woodbury?
Mr. WOODBURY. Mine would be somewhere approximately 8 to 9 acres on my mile that I'vethat runs through our place. My abstract from 1886, we didn't own the property. In fact, the property that we own is in two different half mile sections, and it was in approximately six different tracks in 1886 when it was bought. Everyone of the abstracts from June of 1886 say they condemn a strip 100 feet wide, over, across, and through the property for railroad purposes; and if the railroadfor that railroad and any of its successors, is what it says in the abstract from 1886.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. You don't get an annual tax notice on it now, is that right?
Mr. WOODBURY. We pay taxes on the land, that is correct. We don't pay the railroad taxes. The railroad paid the farm greater majority of taxes on that land than what we did, but they were paying it on their tracks, not on the actual land that it was sitting on. We paidI still continue to pay tax on the land that it's sitting on.
Mr. HANSEN. I see.
Were either of you brought into the negotiations when the rail-to-trail thing went through? Were either of you an active part of this?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. No. Like I said in my statement, we read about it in the ''The Post Dispatch'' in the Sports section that there was the possibility of a trail being placed on the abandoned rail corridor. And as landowners began to realize that there was the possibility of this happening, we formed a group to take it to court to reclaim the land as ours, according to what Missouri state law should have given to us. But not once did anyone from the Rails-to-Trails group approach us and say, this is what we would like to do with your property. We were never a part of any negotiation, nor was there any notice given to us directly.
Mr. HANSEN. Then apparently you weren't approached either on the idea of compensation for the ground?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. No, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. So in effect, you have title to property, you don't pay taxes on it. You have no control over it. But you have some kind of quasi title, I guess, therefore you can't do anything with it; you can't use it; you can't sell it; you can't do anything, is that right?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. I'm not allowed to do anything with it. No, sir, it's part of a state park, but I do own it. My deed is still there, and I still have an easement that says it could not be used for any purpose but a railroad.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. What happens when you argue the fact that the Constitution says you have to be compensated for your ground? What's the response on that?
Ms. GLOSEMEYER. I believe in our Constitution. I believe the Constitution was written so that this very thing would not happen to me; that a private group could not, without my consent, take and use my property. I believe it was written there so I would be partso they would have to negotiate with me as to how my land would be used. Did I understand your question correctly?
Mr. HANSEN. One of the greatest arguments that goes around this Committee is taking by the government, and being compensated on it, whether it's wilderness, waterways, roads, whatever it is. And I guess we're going to have to bring that back to the middle somewhere. I think we got a little extreme on some of it.
Did you have a comment?
Mr. RYUN. Yes, I have a question for Mr. Ackerson. I know you've worked with a number of different landowners throughout the country. Could you comment on perhaps some of those who have actually had to buy their land back, or perhaps who havethey don't have use of it anymore, but perhaps they've had to buy it back.
Mr. ACKERSON. One of the greatest abuses that I think has happened as a result of this Act being in place, is that persons have seized control of the landincluding railroadsnot for the purpose of converting it to a trail, but for the purpose of extracting money from the very people who own the land, requiring landowners to pay railroads to get their own land back under threat of taking it for a trail. If a railroad can hold out the threat of railbanking, even when the railroad does not own the land it can demand money from the landowners, and yes, I've seen that happen in many instances.
In fact there have been instances where Federal money through ISTEA has been used to pay the railroad, which does not own the land, to convert the land to a trail, and we have a possibilityalthough it's going to be expensivefor the landowners to be paid by the United States by going to the Court of Claims so the United States pays for the land once again. And there's even a third possibility, because in some of these instances we know that the railroads have donated their land, which they don't own, and have taken tax deductions as if they owned it.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So we have a triple hit by the taxpayers, and we also have a double hit on the landowners, because the land they've already paid for, and they own, and they're paying taxes on, under the threat of it being railbanked, they may have to pay the railroad for it one more time in order to avoid railbanking.
Now we've seen that done through a method of bidding. A railroad will say, we're going to railbank this, but if you landowners want it back, you can bid more and we'll sell it back to you, even though we don't own it.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, we're 3 hours into this hearing. We've got three panels to go. So I appreciate the patience. You've folks have been here, and traveled a long way to be here. I will excuse this Committee, and thank you for your testimony.
Panel 4 is Edward Norton; the Honorable Janice Hodgson, Mayor of the city of Garnett; Bill Newman, and Richard V. Allen.
We appreciate the panel being with us, and you know the rules. We'd really appreciate it if you'd stay at 5 minutes. Mayor, I don't know if you do that in city council meetings. I used to have a hard time when I was in your position.
We'll start with you, Mr. Newman, and if you could stay within your time, fine. You've got to realize that on the floor right now is a grazing bill, and our membersa lot of them are over there, and in and out, and around and about. And I guess people in the west have some great concerns on that, so no one's sliding you; we'll read a lot of your report.
Mr. NEWMAN. Mr. Chairman, if it's alright with you, could I yield to Mr. Norton to go first?
Mr. HANSEN. Whatever makes you folks happy.
Mr. NEWMAN. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. In what order do you want to go now?
Mr. NORTON. I'll be glad to go first, Mr. Chairman.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. All right, then 1, 2, 3, 4. Is that alright, in that order?
Mr. NORTON. That's fine.
Mr. HANSEN. All right. Watch the clock.
STATEMENT OF EDWARD NORTON, BOARD MEMBER, NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION
Mr. NORTON. I'll watch the clock very carefully. And thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning. I always look forward to testifying before this Subcommittee. Your jurisdictions touches subjects that are near and dear to my heart, and none more so that preserving our nation's rail corridors and our rail trail system.
On just a very personal note, as a young boy I used to ride with my Uncle Stewart, up the C&O line, from Ashville, Kentucky to Elk Horn City, on his locomotive, and I can honestly say that with respect to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the national group that is involved in this issue, I was present at the beginning in the early 1980's when this movement got underway. So this is a subject that I've had some familiarity with all along.
The subject of this hearing this morning touches a subject within the jurisdiction of this Subcommittee that I think requires careful balancing of the different interests and values involved; private property rights, and private property values, as well as broader societal interest. And I think that in many casesand this is exactly onethat many times those interests are much more compatible, and in fact reinforcing than they are in direct conflict, and that we can solve these things without taking a blunderbuss or meat ax approach to them.
I should also add that I'm testifying today on behalf of, not only the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, but also the Surface Transportation Policy Project, which is a coalition of more than 150 organizations and individuals that include state and local government; the National League of Cities, the National Council of State Legislatures, and many organizations, and certainly the total membership of the Surface Transportation Quality Project probably exceeds 2 million people.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To get really right to the heart of the matter, we oppose this legislation. We believed that it would effectively destroy the national railbanking system, established under section 8(d); that it would destroy many of the benefitsadditional benefitsof interim trail use under the present law; that it will really createor eliminate any incentive for railroads to preserve their unused corridors. It creates a cumbersome, and burdensome, and confusing administrative process. And most important, for purpose of what we've heard this morning, it is our view that this bill will really not provide any significant protection to private property rights of the adjacent landowners.
We acknowledge that the private property rights of adjacent landowners are an important subject that must be addressed in any statutory arrangement like this. We are sensitive to those constitutional rights. We look to try to create expeditious, efficient means to resolve those rights, and to provide for compensation where compensation is due under either state or Federal law, but this bill does not accomplish that purpose.
Let me very briefly respond to the remarks that have been made earlier about the origins and the implementation of section 8(d). I happen to have been around when this matter first began to move, and I really don't remember what happened in the House of Representatives, and I looked at this again last night.
I can tell you that the sponsors of this provision in the SenateSenator Jim McClure form Idaho, Senator Malcom Wallop from Wyoming, and also Senator Dentor from Alabama. And I would never say to any of those gentlemen, having dealt with them on these kind of issues, that the put forward a piece of ill considered legislation. Nor has the implementation of this bill been ill considered, and its implementation really is not one that has been left to private rails-to-trails groups and also to the railroads.
If you look just at the Midwest for example, the George Michaelson Trail in South Dakota, which is 110 miles and named after Republican Governor George Michaelson. It's a federally banked rail trail. The Cowboy Trail, which was 320 miles recently discovered in Nebraska, and it was railbanked under the leadership of Governor Nelson. In that case the rail detail group was in fact the state agency. The same is true of the Katy Trail, supported and railbanked by Republican Governor, John Ashcroft. And certainly the Prairie Spirit Trail in Kansas was railbanked under the leadership of former Republic Governor, Mike Hayden. The state playsand in all of those cases, with the possible exception, I'm not quite sure of South Dakota, the state is in fact the rail-to-trail agency. So the notion that this is some Federal, private group and railroad scheme fostered off onto landowners is just simply not correct in neither the legislative history nor the subsequent implementation of that law would suggest that.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With respect to the issue of property rights, which I'd like to squarely address, it's our position on this that people who are in fact actually agree have a perfectly added existing remedy to which they can go. We would be delighted to work with members of this Committee and the other interested groups to make sure that is both expeditious and fair. But it is simply not right to say that under present law, including the Supreme Court's interpretation of that law, that state law is totally preempted, and that person's right and their right to exclusive ownership under the right-of-way is preempted by Federal law. That in fact is the holding of the second round of the Preso case, decided by the Court of Appeals here in Washington, DC last year.
It should be absolutely clear that the Supreme Court decided 9 to 0, without dissent, that section 8(d) is constitutional. And the Court of Appeals have decided that property owners do have a claimif they do have a claimif they can establish ownership under state law, they have an existing remedy to which they can turn in the U.S. Court of Claims, and state that lawtheir rights to property will in fact be determined by state law.
I see my time is up, and I'll be glad to answer any further questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Norton may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. [presiding] Thank you, Mr. Norton.
STATEMENT OF HON. JANICE HODGSON, MAYOR, CITY OF GARNETT
Ms. HODGSON. Thank you.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee. My name is Janice L. Hodgson, Garnett, Kansas, in the heartland of the Honorable Ryun's district. I'm accompanied to this hearing by Mr. Scott Lambers, city administrator of Ottawa, Kansas. He carries with him a letter from their mayor, and I carry one from my city manager that I would like to have entered into the record.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am the mayor of a community in Kansas which has a railbank corridor, which runs directly throughout town. We currently receive a quality of life benefit from the National Trail System Act because we have a wonderful linear park, which connects both or city parks and reservoirs with the town square. the Prairie Spirit Rail Tail between Richmond and Welda, Kansas, with Garnett as a central point, is now completed, and it's providing tremendous economic development and tourism results for the city of Garnett. Users are experiencing a healthy safe place to walk, ride and bike as they enjoy all that nature has to offer. Ground breaking ceremonies for Phase II from Richmond to Ottawa occurred just last Friday, October 24th. This is the first major tourism project for this area, and the first rail trail in the State of Kansas. The $1.3 million project was started by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and the Kansas Department of Transportation. This project was funded by ISTEA funds, and we wish to thank the United Congress for authorizing the highway transportation moneys for this use. We were required to provide 20 percent of the funds to complete this project, and these funds were provided by state and local government, and private contributors.
The city of Garnett, through its economic development office, is keeping a close eye on the use of the trail, as well as the impact that it has on our local economy. I promise that we will do everything possible to ensure its continued success. We are committed to maintain 3 miles of the trail that runs through our corporate limits. Garnett is a rural community of 3,200 people. We are a community of volunteers and hard-working people who understand what an enormous project the trail is, but we are willing to work hard to provide a quality of life environment, not only for our citizens, but for the many visitors that we are attracting to our area.
Sales tax collections reflect a 10 percent increase from 1995 to 1996, and project the sales tax revenues from 1996 to 1997 will increase by 15 percent, which we feel can be attributed somewhat to the trail users that are coming to our city. The proposed amendment to the National Trails Act would remove the Federal law's ability to override state law. Supporters of these amendments want the states to be able to decide how these corridors should be preserved, yet by the current statutes in Kansas, these right-of-ways would be disposed of as soon as they are abandoned, and by dividing the right-of-way among the current owners of the adjacent property.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is no mechanism in the State of Kansas to preserve rail corridors. The Kansas statute divides all property, regardless if the land was from a direct grant from the U.S. Government to the railroad, or obtained through an easement. The railbank corridor, which travels through our community, was established in the 1860's, and 40 percent of the rail right-of-way was from a direct grant from the U.S. Government. Other parcels were obtained through donations and the purchase of easements. Without railbanking, all of these would be divided among the adjacent landowners of the current Kansas statute.
The corridor could be lost, and with it any hope of future reactivation, either for freight or for a possible light rail connection to Kansas City. In the meantime, our town would be deprived of a major resource for economic development. In 1996 Governor Bill Graves issued a 1-year moratorium on the construction of the second 15-mile section of the Prairie Spirit Trail. This would allow the county commission for the country through which that section passed to have the right to stop construction by simply voting not to allow the trail to pass through their county. The moratorium was for 1 year. In that time the County Commission never called for a vote on the trail. After the year was over, the moratorium was lifted, and the plans for construction began.
For these reasons, I am here to discourage any amendment to the National Trail System Act, which would place the Act in danger, and fail to provide a nationwide plan for the conservation of rail corridors.
I appreciate the time that you've given me to express our opinion. Please visit our area and the first Kansas rail trail.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Hodgson may be found at end of hearing.]
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you, Mayor Hodgson.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD ALLEN, LANDOWNER
Mr. ALLEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, it's a pleasure to appear here today, although I must admit that I'm more accustomed to testifying on matters pertaining to nuclear throw weights, perhaps China, which may be an easier topic today than the one under consideration by this Subcommittee, the Soviet Union and other national security topics.
I am Richard Allen, and I come today as a property owner nearwith property near the soon to be abandoned Southern Pacific Tennessee Pass line of 178 miles. As a committed mainstreamand by mainstream I mean to say Reagan Republicanand as the author of the term ''Reaganaut,'' I use that term very discretelyby disposition I'm committed to uphold in the rights of individual property owners, and I am sensitive and well aware of the property rights issues concerned with this matter at hand.
I'd like to suggest that I limit my remarks, Mr. Chairman, to four brief points. First, because I believe in the promotion of our national security interest, I'm going to speak about that issue. Second, I'd like to stress the importance of preserving the famous Tennessee Pass rail line, one of only two rail corridors crossing the great Rocky Mountains to Colorado. Then I would like to talk about the levelthe high levelof local support in the region for this perspective conversion. And fourth, I would like to remind members of this Committee and Subcommittee that the nation's railbanking statute was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983, and President Reagan, certainly one of our most determined and fierce protectors of property rights.
I served two presidents in the White House on three occasions, and other public officials, and I've worked and consulted widely with Members of Congress for many many years since the early 1960's. And as long time advocate of national defense, I am extremely aware of national transportation polices which either will add to or subtract from the national security interest of the United States. So I should like to say emphatically that from my point of view, the railbanking program strongly supports our national security interest, and that eliminating or compromising the railbanking program could compromise our ability to defend the Nation in the time of crisis, especially a time of extended crisis.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You might recall that the interstate highway system was first proposed by President Eisenhower as a national defense highway system. It was proposed under that format because of the need to move material, troops, and other vital materials from one point of the country to another efficiently and quickly. Although our nation's rail corridor system was primarily developed by private interest, it's no less important to the strategic protection of our nation in times of war or global unrest. Railbanking is a common sense alternative to ensure that the constructed rail corridor system remains intact, even though current economic conditions may make in infeasible to run trains on those lines.
There's also a national security of railroads system map, just like the national defense highways system map, and this map identifies railroads whose preservation are considered essential for the national security. The proposed legislation H.R. 2438 would actually preempt this important strategic system, by allowing states at their own election, and without regard to the larger national strategic considerations involved, to make decisions about whether to protect portions of the security railroad system. And while it may be unusual to raise national security issues before this particular Committee, we can all appreciate the long-range importance of these issues.
In Colorado, with the merger of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroad the great Tennessee Pass rail line is being abandoned. We can all marvel at the truly significant engineering accomplishments that made possible the development of this corridor, which includes 119 bridges and more than 4,100 feet of tunnels through the Rocky Mountains. Under current abandonment procedures, unless the corridor is railbanked under the national railbanking statute, all 119 bridges would have to be dismantled, or would represent a perpetual liability to the Union Pacific or the State of Colorado. This is not an unusual problem of course, but it is particularly acute there.
The Tennessee Pass corridor passes through 4 counties and 20 towns. Since the Union Pacific announced its intention to abandon the line, the State of Colorado has examined many alternatives, held many hearings, had a lot of citizen input, and has developed what I would identify as overwhelming local support. Certain committees met and held extensive hearings so that public input could be heard, and the result is a very high level of support for the trail system as it is to be proposed there. Chambers of commerce and other businesses are very importantly behind this.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I had the opportunity to discuss this just the other night in Colorado with the Honorable John Fawcett, the mayor of Avon, Colorado. And he informed me that there is virtually no opposition whatsoever in the region and certainly not among his own people. In the County of Eagle, in which Avon is located in the town of Edwards, there has been a newly instituted one-half cent transportation tax, of which 10 percent must go for rails, rather for trails. This is an extremely important concept, and $4 million has been appropriated from the GOCO, the Greater Outdoors Colorado Foundation for this purpose.
Finally, I will suggest to members of this Committee and the House of Representatives, that the statute was signed into law by President Reagan after due consideration of his entire staff, his administration, and particularly by the ever tough and omnipresent Office of Management and Budget. I suggest that this Committee follow President Reagan's leadership, and refrain from weakening or dismantling this important legislation, which helps to implement our national policy of preserving the built rail corridor infrastructure. Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Allen may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you, Mr. Allen.
Mr. NEWMAN. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to summarize my remarks, and you have my written statement for the record.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Please.
STATEMENT OF BILL NEWMAN, VICE PRESIDENT AND WASHINGTON COUNSEL, CONRAIL Mr. NEWMAN. Good morning or good afternoon, I guess by now. My name is William Newman, and I'm Vice President of the Washington Counsel for Consolidated Rail Corporation. And for those who don't know, Conrail is the fifth largest Class I railroad in America today.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I appreciate the opportunity to testify on behalf of Conrail, and I'm here today to extol the benefits of the Rails-to-Trails program. But before I do that, I'd like to just take a minute to bring the people on this Committee up to speed about the Renaissance that's going on in the freight railroad industry today.
Many people harken back to the early 1970's when our industry was on very hard financial times; over 25 percent of the railroad network was in bankruptcy. Today in good part, due to the passage of the Staggers Rail Act, our industry is prospering. I'm pleased to say that among other things, we offer better service, we have newer technologies, and we are also benefiting I think from the shortage of drivers in the trucking industry. We're also benefiting from the fact that there are limited resources to attend to the needs of our highway system, but basically the railroad industry is thriving today.
Notwithstanding that, we still are all businesses, looking to shed unnecessary costs where we can. And historically as you know, the way the industry dealt with lines that it no longer needed was to abandon them. In fact, as I pointed out in my testimony, the Class I railroad industry had 200,000 milesroad miles in 1965 and the Class I network now is down to slightly over 100,000. Abandonments, which are the virtually irreversible dismantling of rail corridors, were the predominant method of disposing of these lines before the 1980's. Then in the 1980's two alternatives to abandonments arose; both of them we believe are better in terms of preserving existing rail service, allowing the future potential of rail service, and improving overall public policy.
The first was the development of the short-line sale program, whereby uneconomic lines are sold to short-line operators. Conrail has 170 of them connecting to us today, and they're roughly 20 percent of our business. But for the lines for which there is no foreseeable future of viable rail service, the Rails-to-Trails program has offered an alternative to abandonments, which would usually, as I mentioned, result in the dismantling of a corridor, thus making the corridor virtually impossible to be reconstructed for rail use.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Rails-to-Trails program preserves rail lines by authorizing trail use and railbanking through agreements with interim trail users, made on a voluntary basis, subject to reactivation and interim user assumption of liability in connection with trail use, and the payment of taxes, and without, from the railroads perspective, burdening the abandonment process.
Congress carefully struck a balance between multiple goals in the Rails-to-Trails program. It preserved rail rights-of-ways and the rights of the railroads to dispose of their property as they see fit. It induced the railroads to enter into agreements to have the interim of trail user assume the tax and legal liabilities, which otherwise might be formidable hurdles; and facilitated the marketing of entire rights-of-way segments in the economic development with such marketing. It allowed for the potential reactivation of the right-of-way by the railroad should demand arise for it, and it assured the redress for the rights of the adjacent landowners, who have compensable property interest in the right-of-way at issue. We believe that the courts and the ICC, which is the predecessor to the Surface Transportation Board, have preserved the balance struck.
Let me focus if I can for a moment on the pending legislation. Conrail believes H.R. 2438 would eviscerate the Rails-to-Trails program for the following reasons beginning with the repeal of the policy statement. In particular, the repeal of the quote, ''to preserve established railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation of rail service; to protect rail transportation corridors'' and ''the interim use of any established railroad right-of-way'' not being treated as an abandonment, combined with the non-exemption of state property law provided for in section 5 is, with the pun intended, a total abandonment of the policy to preserve rail corridors for interim use, with the possibility of reactivation for future rail use.
Indeed, the bill is intended to give primacy to the interests of adjacent property owners, but sacrifices the policy of preserving rails rights-of-way and the possible reactivation of rail service in doing so. Other sections of H.R. 2438 are intended to cripple or burden the rails-to-trails process, by leaving it ambiguous as to has the liability for taxes on the right-of-way, the liability for the adjacent property owners' interests, and making the Surface Transportation Board process potentially more litigious, extenuated, and consequently less predictable. In conclusion, Conrail believes the rails-to-trails process works well as presently constituted, and we would urge Congress not to tinker with it.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Newman may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. The gentleman from Kansas for questions.
Mr. RYUN. I'd like to direct my question, if I might, to Mr. Norton. You said something early in your testimony I would like to look at.
While it's true that landowners can go to claims courtand by the way that's a very expensive process for landowners throughout this country to travel all the way back here to Washingtonthis arrangement gives great advantage to your group to take the people's property, and then let those landowners seek some sort of help along the way in an appeal.
You seem to be sensitive, and you made that comment earlier that you want to be sensitive, sensitive to compensation, landowners and property rights issues to the point where it's an inconvenience to you.
How do you respond to that? Isn't that the way it would be, that it's more of an inconvenience to you than anyone else?
Mr. NORTON. I'm not sure I quite understand the question. But let me address the property rights issue and the issue of the costthe process for resolving these issues and the cost of that.
First of all, I don't understand how this proposed legislationassuming for the moment that we do have a costly procedure, a very costly procedure, a time consuming procedurethat I don't understand how this statute in any way resolves that. I don't understand how property owners who have legitimate claims will be really in any different position.
The underlying question always is, who has title to the land, what is the extent of those rights, what were the rights that were given up, what were the rights that it retained. Those issues are determined under state law, and under the terms of the deeds from the railroads, and they are very fact-specific. Whether those are resolved in the Court of Claims, or in state courts, or otherwise, these issues are always going to end up to some extentthey're always going to end up in the court.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RYUN. Mr. Norton, may I interrupt just for a minute. I'm going to have to run for a vote. But I see the process as being best handled at a state level, where they have the opportunity to condemn that land, and to go through the process, if you will, compensation; whereas in this process it's very expensive, and it really does lean toward those of you that are here as opposed to the small landowner, that's back some place else in the United States.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. If the gentleman from Kansas would yield, because you have a vote, and I know this is a critical panel that you would like to raise some additional questions, I'd be more than happy to maybe give a 10-minute recess for you to return, and may want to raise additional questions, if that's all right with the gentleman.
Can the members of our panel have just a little patience, and the gentleman will come back, and we will continue with the questioning. Thank you.
The Committee will be recessed for about 10 minutes.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. We'd like to regroup, please, panel.
I am not sure if Mr. Ryun will be coming back, but certainly every opportunity will be given to him to raise additional questions. In fact, we'll even allow the gentleman to submit more questions for the record if he wishes, and then to the members of the panel.
I want to thank the members of the panel for their testimonies. This is always what makes democracy quite interesting, that you have an entirely different perspective from the other panel which gave their statements earlier.
I do remember Mr. Richard Allen, with utmost respect for your tremendous service to our country at the time when you served as national security advisor to President Reagan, and I want to offer my personal welcome to you, sir, and a job well done, if that's a better way of saying it.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Newman, on the issue of our wholeI kept asking these same questions, but I don't know, maybe I'm going over my head in trying to focus a little more specifically on our general overall national policy. It's not about land rights, it's not about the taking or easements; I'm talking about the situation with our whole railroad company or industry, if you want to put it those terms.
You indicated earlier that we are getting a little better than it was before.
Mr. NEWMAN. That is correct.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Do you think that there is a future for the railroad industry to be expanding even more?
Mr. NEWMAN. Let me kind of reiterate some of the things I touched on in my testimony.
The railroad industry is going to continue to grow. The railroad industry, I believeI feel very confidentis one that will get a bigger piece of the freight traffic that is out there. We are doing better. There are external forces at work that help us. However, as I mentioned, we will do more with less, as everybody in this world seeks to be more productive.
So, if your question is, will there be new lines of railroad, not likely. As I mentioned with the short-line program, one of our primary goals is the preservation of the rail network, because after the railroad is gone, in our view, it will not come back unless we preserve the corridors. That's why our preference, when we have a line that does not make economic sense, is to sell it first to a short-line operator, thereby perpetuating rail service. And the fallback to that is, if that doesn't work because the economics aren't there, then we look to something like rails-to-trails.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. See we've got a problem here. We have a national policy with reference of maintaining the basic structure or the integrity of our transportation system, which the railway system is one of those very important aspects of our whole transportation system.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You're talking about an issuewhat is it annually in terms of the gross and passenger, industry, and cargo commodities?
Mr. NEWMAN. The railroad industry is roughly about a $35 billion revenue industry; this is the freight industry. In addition to that, as you know, you have Amtrak, who's revenues are slightly over a billion dollars. You have a great number of commuter agencies across the country, many of whichparticularly I'm familiar with Conrailmost of which operate over our freight lines. We share those lines. And indeed, with respect to Amtrak, we share the Northeast Corridor with them.
The railroad industry carries 60 percent of our nation's coal, carries about 70 percent of our finished motor vehicles, carries grain, carries chemicals. As I mentioned, we are increasingly carrying all kinds of merchandise in our internodal trains. Our internodal trains are growing phenomenally. Our industry as far as I'm concerned is only going upward.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. And Mr. Norton, you've indicated that you do have some very serious problems with the provision of Mr. Ryun's bill. His suggestion is that we ought to just let the state government take care of this, in terms of the reversion of the status of the land, if it's abandoned by the railroads.
You're talking about how muchI notice Kansas, I think, has about, what, nine trails, rail trail systems in Kansas currently?
Mr. NORTON. I think that's right currently in Kansas. There is actually an exhibit at the back ofit's actually three, three existing; it's attached to our testimonythree open trails in Kansas at least, as I look at those numbers.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I noticed that Mr. Allen makes a very interesting comment about the fact that our railway system has very far-reaching the national security considerations. And I'd like, Mr. Allen, if you can elaborate a little further, how does a railroad have to do with our national security interest?
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ALLEN. Well, Mr. Chairman, if you could imagine a period of prolonged crisis, and the need to mobilize resources, you would quickly I think understand the requirement to keep open the option; to have always the option to revert to putting rails back down.
I speak from the limited experience that I have in Colorado. The railroad wants to take up those rails, use them someplace else; they're heavy duty rails with a special high quality, and take up the ties, and so on and so forth. But there may be a time when it has to go back in. For example, the misfortunateor the unfortunate fact that there were a building or something in existence, the railroad would have a hard timeand I think you pointed out earliergoing around those square corners. Put back in a railroad in time of great national need, or prolong national crisis would be a very important consideration. And it's my understanding that there had been certain reconversions where economic feasibility indicated that that should be done. But for long-term national security considerations it seems to me to be vital to keep open these main rail corridors, and to have the option to have them converted once again to their original use. That's why I believe that nothing should be done to disturb the existing system.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you, my time is up.
The gentleman from Kansas.
Mr. RYUN. Yes. I'd like to direct that question, if I may, a little bit to Nels Ackerson, with regard to national security. If you would comment on that. I know you mentioned earlier you would like to do that.
Would you please do so at this point?
Your microphone is not on.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Could you turn your mike on, Mr. Ackerson?
Mr. ACKERSON. My reaction will be one of common sense, and not born of the national security experience of Mr. Allen, so I don't question at all the legitimacy of his concern. What I hear though, is that there is a national security reason to preserve the existing corridors, and if so, that should be addressed it seems to me in the present law as well as any future law. And it seems to me it could be addressed rather effectively by simply permitting the Department of Defense to determine, during the abandonment process, whether this is a corridor that should be preserved for national security purposes, and if so, then the traditional condemnation process in eminent domain proceedings could take effect, and that corridor could be preserved during the period in which that condemnation action goes forward.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It seems to me that is a matter, to the extent there's a national security interest, that is right now, because right now the United States has no other way to preserve that corridor, unless by chance a railroad and a trails group happen to agree to.
Mr. NEWMAN. Mr. Chairman, may I address this question, because I know a little bit about it, coming from the rail side.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. The gentleman from Kansas, it's his time.
Mr. RYUN. Yes, you may.
Mr. NEWMAN. Mr. Ackerson is exactly right. The people don't realize that the Department of Defense is a major railroad shipper, and when the railroad proposes to abandon the line as one of the shippers, they are served with notice of the proposed abandonment, and the Department of Defense has, and I assume, will continue to be a purchaser of these lines. They have from time to time stepped in and bought lines. And in fact they, in several cases, operate their own service to reach the outlying rail network.
Mr. ACKERSON. And that could remain the same I think in the continuing law if your bill were to be passed, Mr. Ryun.
Mr. RYUN. And that's correct. That's how I see my bill at this point in time, that it really doesn't threaten that particular issue.
Mr. ALLEN. May I make a comment, sir, although it's on your time?
Mr. RYUN. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. The gentleman from Kansas, it's his time, but if you would allow Mr. Allen to respond to your concern.
Mr. RYUN. I'm finished at this point. That's fine. Thank you.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Do you have any further questions, sir?
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [No response.]
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. OK, Ms. Woolsey.
Ms. WOOLSEY. I will let the gentleman at the end of the table answer on some of my time, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Allen, go ahead.
Mr. ALLEN. Thank you. I was just going to point out very briefly that national security is a much broader consideration than simply the Department of Defense. And my second observation, meant somewhat lightly, is that the last place I would go for a quick resolution of a problem or a study, is the Department of Defense, and ask them to determine anything with clarity recision within a reasonable frame of time. And I think the Congress itself has its own experience in that regard.
So, the basic point I'd like to make, however, is national security is not limited to what the Department of Defense has to say about anything; it's a much broader concept, and especially as we learn this fact of life in the post-cold war world.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Will the gentlelady yield?
Ms. WOOLSEY. Yes, I will yield.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Norton, please enlighten us, what can we do to help these landowners that are telling us their sense of grievance? Now, you've indicated they do have access to the Federal courts, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Is there another option that is available for these landowners?
Mr. NORTON. Well, thank you for asking that question. Actually Congressman Ryun and I were in the middle of a conversation about that when you had to recess. Let me try to pick up that answer.
First of all, I would say that we all should work together to try to find the right forums and the expeditious processes by which propertylegitimate property rights can be adjudicated. This has to be an adjudicatory process; it is the essential nature of these issues. I do not think you can escape that. It will have to be in state courtin Federal court or the Federal courts of claims. But the process will have to be adjudicatory.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think you've heard very compelling testimony here today that the bill, as introduced, for a number of reasons would destroy any incentive on the part of the railroads. We've heard it from the railroad industry to preserve unused rail corridors. I think that we need an approach, with respect to these property rights, that employs the scalpel rather than the meat cleaver on these issues. And we would be very anxious to work with the Committee in order to do that.
From my own experience litigating cases in both state and Federal courts, local courts, state courts, Federal courts, I don't believe that state courts are necessarily even the best or the most expeditious place in which to resolve these issues. I know that the Court of Claims does have procedures now that allow for the Court of Claims to act as essentially circuit writers. A great deal of this can be done in an expeditious way, and maybe it would be better.
I would conclude by saying that, I think that this is an issue on which this Committee should get some really good legal advice. I think there's been some bad legal advice about these legal issues, and the constitutional issues, and the court decisions bandied about today. I think you should get some good independent advice on this, and develop a consistent position with respect to property rights.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1534, which allows, Congressman Ryun, private landowners and developers to bypass state and local court systems, and go directly to Federal court, even bypassing state administrative processes. And I think what we need to do is really lookthis issue is coming up over and over again, and we need to look at a way that these legitimate property rights can be expeditiously adjudicated.
Mr. HANSEN. [presiding] Thank you. Any other questions for this panel?
Mr. RYUN. Just a comment. And that is, the bill you mentioned, H.R. 1534, while it has passed the House, has not been signed into law yet, so it is still to be
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. We'll excuse this panel, and thank you so very much. Appreciate the patience of all you folks today. All heck could break loose on the floor any minute on the grazing bill, and we've got to move right along here, if we can.
Our fifth panel is Steve Kinsey, Robert Berner, and Sharon Doughty. If those folks would like to come up, we'd appreciate it.
Well, thank you very much for being here; we appreciate your presence. I would appreciate if you stay within your time, not that your testimony isn't extremely important, but we're going to have bells going off, and we're going to sit here to 8 if we don't get some of things going.
So, Mr. Kinsey, we'll start with you, sir.
STATEMENT OF STEVE KINSEY, SUPERVISOR, FOURTH DISTRICT, COUNTY OF MARIN
Mr. KINSEY. Thank you very much. My name is Steven Kinsey, and I do appreciate your durability today, as well as this opportunity to address you on behalf of the Marin County Board of Supervisor, and as a representative voice for the quarter million residents of Marin County.
The district that I serve is a very vast part of Marin County, comprising almost two-thirds of its land mass, and virtually all of it's agricultural lands; as well as the great majority of its Federal parks and its recreation areas. It's a privilege to serve the spectacular and diverse community of Marin.
Mr. Chairman, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously supports H.R. 1995, because this legislation sets up a voluntary cost-effective collaboration between Federal and local governments that can help protect our region's agricultural heritage and, one of our nation's most popular national parks at the same time. I'm pleased to report as well that my colleagues on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, our neighbors immediately to the north, equally share our commitment to passage of this bill. Additionally, throughout each of our counties there is an overwhelming majority of residents who strongly favor the protections that will be provided by this legislation.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC H.R. 1995 offers real relief for ranching families committed to sustaining their way of life. Farming has never been an easy job. Farming on the urban edge is even more challenging, due to the relentless pressure development exerts upon the fertile soil.
Like so many ranchers across America our region's farming families are often land rich and cash strapped. This legislation can deliver the vital funds many ranchers need to finance repairs and improvements in their operations, to comply with emerging regulatory requirements, or to diversify into entirely new agricultural venues. In return, the environmental character and the productive value of the land can be retained in perpetuity.
I'm not sitting here today asking the Federal Government to unilaterally undertake the salvation of our region's agriculture. Marin has a 25-year history, a very proud history, of working to effectively preserve our historic agricultural lands. We've utilized many tools, including low density zoning, acquisition of conservation easements, and diversification of the industry beyond our historic beef and dairy markets, toward reaching this goal of protecting our agriculture. Today Marin ranches in addition to beef, sheep, and dairy, also produce high quality vegetables, grapes, berries, and even an emerging market in olive oil.
In spite of Marin's historic efforts to protect our agriculture, H.R. 1995 is urgently needed to assist ranching families who choose to continue their way of life, and pass it on to generations to come. Without this program those cash-strapped families will have no other choice except to sell out or seek to develop their property. In fact, for the first time since creating our coastal ag zoning, an application to develop a sprawling 20-unit subdivision on a 1,200 acre parcel within the proposed Protection Act boundary, has been submitted, and it's expected to be deemed complete by our County's staff tomorrow on October 31st.
The proposal reflects the maximum density permitted under the Marin 60-acre zoning. Similar proposals are sure to follow this precedent-setting effort, and as each one is submitted, the pressure for adjacent property owners to follow down that path will surely increase. Passage of H.R. 1995 will certainly stall that trend.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is not Marin's intention that property owners be denied the ability to propose such developments if they desire to do so. However, H.R. 1995 offers a voluntary alternative to development. Individual ranchers can decide for themselves whether or not to participate in the program. This is far different than the circumstances an earlier generation faced when the Park Service was acquiring lands in the national seashore.
There are other provisions of H.R. 1995 that I'd like to bring to your attention today as well. H.R. 1995 requires the local community to continue to invest in protecting our agriculture. Fifty percent of the funding for easement purchases must come from non-Federal sources. Purchase of conservation easements instead of the costlier fee purchase in most instances, will allow more agricultural lands to be protected for less Federal dollars. The land will also remain on local property tax rolls, particularly important to me as a supervisor, and particularly important to the schools in our country, as well as to the other important service districts that receive property tax funding.
In conclusion, I wish to reiterate my deep gratitude for the opportunity you've made for us to speak to you on this matter today. In this year of shrinking government and a renewed commitment to private property rights, H.R. 1995 provides your Committee with an innovative opportunity to protect the family farm and our national treasures, without breaking the bank or infringing on an individual's freedom to choose. I urge you to breathe life into this important legislation, adding your own contributions to its innovative structure so that it can serve not only the coast of California, our remarkable Marin County and Sonoma County; but also serve as a national model for a way to protect agriculture on the urban edge. Thank you for your time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Kinsey may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you very much.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Berner.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT BERNER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MARIN AGRICULTURAL LAND TRUST
Mr. BERNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.
My name is Robert Berner. I am executive director of Marin Agricultural Land Trust, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to help preserve productive farmland in Marin County. I speak for MALT and not for any other organizations or individuals.
Farmland makes Marin County one of the most unique and beautiful places in the United States. Agriculture preserved what is now Point Reyes National Seashore from second home, suburban and commercial development, until it was set aside as a national park. Agriculture today serves as the gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore, and is an integral part of the values, quality and character that makes Point Reyes one of the most visited national parks in the country. These are not hobby farms, but economically viable businesses, many of which have been in the same families for three and four generations.
But farming on the edge of the country's fourth largest metropolitan area brings development pressures and rising land prices that threaten the future of agriculture. When Point Reyes National Seashore was created in 1962, there were 3 million people in the northern California Bay area; today there are over 6 million.
The most pernicious threats to agriculture are insidious and largely invisible. County land use policies protect against sprawl development with low density zoning, typically one unit for every 60 acres. The State Williamson Act allows agricultural landowners to be taxed based upon our agricultural land values rather than market values. But zoning and the Williamson Act do not protect against high agricultural land values driven by the proximity of our agricultural lands to the metropolitan bay area, or rural sprawl characterized by low density residential development. The average agricultural property in the county is 600 acres, making it vulnerable under local zoning to subdivision into 10 residential parcels.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For 17 years Marin Agricultural Land Trust has offered agricultural families faced with the need to capitalize some of the value of their land a conservation alternative through the purchase of conservation easements. We have acquired easements on 38 farms and ranches totaling 25,500 acres. The purchase of conservation easements has been critical to the survival of agricultural in Marin. Every rancher knows someone who would have been forced to sell their land, or unable to buy land, were it not for the purchase of a conservation easement.
Because Point Reyes National Seashore is a national asset and its protection and preservation a Federal responsibility, we think it is reasonable and justifiable for the Federal Government to share in the cost of protecting the farmland which is so important to the character, quality, and environment of this enormously popular park. We do not think it fair to place the economic burden of protecting these lands solely on the landowners through further downzoning.
We offer to work in partnership with the Federal Government to permanently preserve the farmlands within the boundaries of H.R. 1995 through the acquisition of conservation easement in voluntary, compensatory transactions with landowners. The land would remain privately owned, privately managed, and on the tax rolls. MALT will help match Federal funds, and will undertake both acquisition and monitoring responsibilities entirely at our own expense, at no cost to the Federal Government.
I want to emphasize, Mr. Chairman, that MALT does not support legislation that makes private farmland park land; subjects landowners to Federal regulation; diminishes land values; or is not voluntary and compensatory. We do not believe that H.R. 1995 does any of those things. H.R. 1995 would help maintain privately owned agricultural land in private ownership and protect it from non-agricultural development, but protected from non-agricultural development by conservation easements purchased at market value in voluntary transactions with landowners, thereby preserving this area adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore in the private agricultural land uses which have historically, and continue to be, compatible with and complimentary to the park. Thank you very much.
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Berner may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF SHARON DOUGHTY, DAIRY RANCHER
Ms. DOUGHTY. Good afternoon. My name is Sharon Mendoza Doughty. I am a lifetime registered Republican and a third generation dairyman, who was raised on a Historic B Ranch, which is now a part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. My family owned four ranches, totaling 5,000 acres, which became part of the Point Reyes National Seashore when it was authorized in 1962. My father and brother still operate a dairy on this land, under the reservation of use and occupancy with the National Park Service. After college I married a local dairyman, and in 1973 moved to a 773-acre dairy on the East Side of Tomales Bay, across from the Point Reyes National Seashore. This land is within the proposed area to be included in the Point Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act. Since being widowed in 1984, I have continued to operate the dairy. We milk 300 cows twice daily, produce 2,500 gallons of milk. That along with 50 other dairies in Marin County provide 25 percent of the milk for the San Francisco metropolitan bay area.
My family and I are committed to agriculture. It is hard work, but it is what we know and love. Although it certainly was not our purpose, for the past 30 years agriculture has also preserved the east shore of Tomales Bay from development, that would otherwise destroy the extraordinary pristine quality of the bay, and the integrity and character of the Point Reyes National Seashore.
As an active participant in the agricultural community, I am a 20 plus year member of the Marin County Farm Bureau, as well as Western United Dairymen, as well as the local Chamber of Commerce. In 1994 Governor Pete Wilson appointed me to the California Coastal Commission, where I served for 2 years. In 1986 the Marin County Board of Supervisors appointed me to the 15-member board of the Marin County Agricultural Land Trust, where I served for 9 years. I was chairman of that board for 2 years, as well as chairman of the Agricultural Committee for several years. MALT's nationally recognized program is highly respected by farmer and non-farmer alike. It has successfully purchased easements on 25,504 acres of the 150,000 acres critical to Marin's ag industry.
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the past to fund MALT easement program we have used money from a local foundation from the California Coastal Conservancy, as well as $15 million from State Proposition 70. There is still a long list of property owners who are interested in selling their easements on their land. We have twice tried within the county, and participated in another state proposition to obtain more funds, but have failed narrowing the two-thirds vote required. Because of the popularity of the Point Reyes National Seashore with the people throughout the United States the concept was developed that this open space along Tomales Bay deserves national support.
I was not especially enthusiastic about this idea in the beginning. We certainly do not need more land and public ownership in Marin County, and I had many questions concerning accessibility, funding, and administration. In the past 3 years Lynn Woolsey has closely listened to all the property owners and sincerely tried to address their concerns, while protecting the investment for the people of the entire United States. In its form today I am now in full support of H.R. 1995. No new authority to regulate private land is granted in this legislation. If and when the Federal Government purchases the conservation easement, the conservation easement protects the landowner. The conservation easements acquired as a result of this Act will expressly permit hunting, predator control, use of lawful pesticides, just as MALT easements do. MALT is specified in the bill to manage and monitor these easements.
My 773-acre property is very desirable for development. We are reminded of how desirable this property is every weekend by the guests of our bed and breakfast. However, I prefer to have the option to sell a conservation easement on this productive land, for me and my heirs to continue our stewardship of this land and agriculture. We have planted 5 acres of vineyards in an effort to diversify for viability. The money we could receive from this act would help us to buy more land for vineyards to build a winery, or creamery for a cheese operation without incurring heavy debt. We have four adult children who are very interested in agricultural operators. Upon my death, these funds could be used to help supplement my life insurance and pay my heirs' inheritance taxes, so my children would not be forced to sell the land.
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Because of the positive experience that my family has had with the tenants of the National Park Service, I would willingly enter into an agreement to sell my conservation easements to the National Park Service. For over 25 years the tenants of the National Park Service within the Point Reyes National Seashore have enjoyed a positive relationship. These tenants have together signed a petition, which I'm submitting as part of my testimony today to substantiate that relationship.
It reads, ''We the undersigned ranchers and residents of the Point Reyes National Seashore wish to dispel certain misinformation about our relationship with the seashore. In particular, we would like it be publicly known that our relationship with the National Park Service is generally harmonious.'' And it is signed by the current tenants of the seashore.
I want to thank you very much for the opportunity to testify here today in support of H.R. 1995.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Doughty may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you very much.
Questions for the panel?
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I would defer to the gentlelady from California.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, that was excellent testimony. Thank you for being so patient and waiting so long.
First, with Bob Berner. Can you tell me what the confusion is among those who are in opposition to this bill, regarding the Williamson Act? They seem to think that the Williamson Act will do the same thing as the conservation easements. I think they're missing a point.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Could you put that in words for us?
Mr. BERNER. Well, I can't speak for other people, but the Williamson Act is a short-term provision, an agreement between the landowner and the county, whereby the landowner is taxed based upon agricultural use rather than market value, in exchange for commitment to maintain the property and agriculture for a 9- to 10-year period.
Ms. WOOLSEY. But it does not add any new income to the landowner.
Mr. BERNER. That's correct. It does not address the problem I described of high land values and the difficulties of farming families when they have to treat the land as a financial asset, and not just as a natural resource. Zoning and the Williamson Act, public policy in general simply is not a tool, which is useful in a region like ours to address this economic problem.
Ms. WOOLSEY. And under H.R. 1995 wouldn't the land with agricultural conservation easements be taxed at ag value, not at development value? So they would still have the benefit
Mr. BERNER. When a landowner sells the conservation easement, if that property is not already in the Williamson Act the landowner would, I think, invariably enter into the Williamson Act, a contract for the county, so it would be taxed based upon its agricultural use.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you.
Sharon, you've come from a large ranching family, and I'd like, if you would, to go a little bit beyond your own concerns.
Do the other members of your family have concerns about this bill, and have we through our changes answered most or all of those concerns?
Ms. DOUGHTY. Yes. Besides my piece of property, my family also owns more property within this zone. And again, we are conservative farmers. There were definitelymy Republican father was very concerned about what this would mean to that property and to our family, and he has worked very closelyall of us have worked very closely in expressing our concerns, and he hasin the last version of the bill was very delighted with the changes that were made; felt that we could definitely live viably within what was being presented. And he said to me, that he was quite impressed with you, Lynn, because you had listened to us, and your tenaciousness in meeting with all of us, and finding out what we all needed and feltyou've done a wonderful job of representing us.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WOOLSEY. I guess I was the straight man for that one, Mr. Chairman. I wasn't asking for a compliment. I really wanted to make sure that I have answered a good number of the concerns of your family as well as the others
Ms. DOUGHTY. Well, we certainly feel that you have been very tenacious
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, thank you.
Ms. DOUGHTY. [continuing] in making sure that our concerns were met, and that farming would in fact survive. That was the point.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you.
Supervisor Kinsey, let's talk about the 2.5 million visitors that visit the Point Reyes National Seashore every year. It's one of the most visited national parks in the nation, and that keeps getting lost I think in what we're talking about here.
Those visitors travel through Marin County. What does that bring to your county?
Mr. KINSEY. Well, I think, Congresswoman, really it brings a tremendous amount to our county, not only the cultural exchange that obviously happens when you have visitors from around the world, but certainly a tremendous boost to our economy. And in fact, there certainly are 2.5 million visitors who come to the National Seashore each year. They are just a part of the over 6.5 million visitors who come to all of Marin County on an annual basis to enjoy, not just the seashore, but the Golden Gate national recreational areas as well.
Within the seashore itself I think Superintendent Neubacher mentioned earlier today that over $100 million a year is brought to the local economy, and that contribution has a tremendous benefit. It serves not only to increase the sales taxes and the overnight occupancy taxes that help to fund a number of our county services, including the public safety services that many rural communities cannot afford; but it provides the opportunity for many of our residents to work locally, which has enormous benefits to strengthen the family values, and to reduce the environmental impacts that long distance commuting provide to so many urban areas.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I would say that there is a significant environmental as well as cultural and economic benefit to having the park, and we extend ourselves generously I hope to those visitors because we want to provide a real sense of hospitality to people that come to Marin County.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you, I've used my time.
Mr. HANSEN. Gentleman from California.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Kinsey as one of those people who has boosted the economy in Marin County on a number of occasions on my visits to Point Reyes. I can understand why the people are interested in protecting that area, and it is a beautiful area. And there's no question about that.
But what do you think this legislationwhat power does this legislation give you, or what authority does it take to protect this area that you don't believe you currently have as the lead authority in land use planning in Marin County?
Mr. KINSEY. Mr. Pombo, I believe that this legislation is primarily developing an economic partnership between the Federal Government and the local community to fulfill our land use expectations and aspirations. It's a voluntary bill, and for those landowners who don't choose to exercise the options available through this legislation, we haveif not a welcome door, certainly an open door in Marin County that would allow individuals to apply.
As I mentioned in my testimony, we currently have a proposal on a 1,200-acre ranch for a subdivision of that ranch, the first of its kind within the coastal ag zoning. I would say that this is not about fulfilling our land use expectations in ways that we cannot as Marin County; this is about strengthening the partnership between the Federal Government and the long-term efforts of Marin County to sustain our agricultural heritage.
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. So, in your mind it gives you no greater land use authority than what you currently have, but it gets the money; it brings money to the table.
Mr. KINSEY. It does not in any way affect the land use authority that the county currently has; that's correct.
Mr. POMBO. Have you supported in the past the development? I think you said that your county was on 60 acres development, was the minimum. Have you supported those developments in the past?
Mr. KINSEY. As I mentioned, Mr. Pombo, this is the first application within the coastal ag zoning for a subdivision of a ranch. What I have done is to make it clear to our staff that we need to treat this application with all fairness, and as such, we are determining that that application is complete as of this week, and we will begin the environmental review process and the public hearings, and consideration of the project on its merits, as it applies to our current zoning.
Mr. POMBO. Is this the first time that there has been an application to subdivide into 60-acre blocks within this area?
Mr. KINSEY. Within the coastal ag zoning this isthe areas within the Farmland Protection Act boundaries; this is the first subdivision that has been proposed.
What I would say is that, the zoning that we have is very strict. It's very clear that our intention is to support agriculture, and that agriculture is the primary intention that we choose to accomplish. So for a subdivision to be deemed appropriate it needs to show that it's a secondary use to the primary use of agriculture. So there's no questionand I don't want to mislead anyone here to think that we have lax zoning that would allow for agriculture to slip away from us. But this legislation, should it be successful, will strengthen our hand, and more importantly, will provide individuals who choose to participate with the opportunity to stay on their lands, as opposed to feel compelled for personal reasons, financial hardship, to either sell the lands or attempt to subdivide the land in order to continue their lifestyle.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. I think you've established that the greatest need in this area is dollars, in purchasing the conservation easement on those lands; that it's not a lack of land use ability that the county has, but it's a lack of dollars, and that that is the primary motivation with legislation like this.
Is that correct or is that incorrect? Because if there's no land use authority included in this bill, if there's no restrictions that are included in this bill, if there's no way that we are in any way taking away any of your land use authority, or any of the property rights of the people involvedthe property owners involved, then the only thing left in that scenario is the dollars.
Mr. KINSEY. I think that, while I would agree that the land use authority is maintained with Marin County, the value of this bill goes far beyond the economic benefit alone.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Berner, if you want to respond to that. I'm very curious because I'm notI'm not totally opposed to this idea because we have a program very similar to it in my own county. But the argument that is continually made is that, it's no new land use authority, and there's nothing there. And if that's the case, why do you need a Federal bill?
If it's just the dollars, then let's just say, OK, it's just the dollars, let's work on that. But if it's not that, tell me what it is.
Mr. BERNER. Well, I think the bill as it is written is very clear about that. All it does is authorize Federal funds to be used to purchase conservation easements in order to preserve the land for agriculture. As I tried to indicate my testimony
Mr. POMBO. It's several pages, and I've reviewed the bill, and it's more than just an authorization. I've done authorization bills before, and you don't need several pages to just do an authorization bill.
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BERNER. The problem in Marin Countyand this is a problem that's shared in other agricultural communities adjacent to urban areasis that land prices have risen far beyond any values based upon agricultural land. And while that in some senses is a windfall to the landowner, it also presents them with a host of problems. It makes it difficult to pass land from one generation to the next because of high estate taxes. It makes it difficult for a young farmer or rancher to buy land because it has to be paid for at market value by
Mr. POMBO. Coming from a seventh generation farm family
Mr. BERNER. OK. You know all this.
Mr. POMBO. [continuing] I'm very familiar with that.
Mr. BERNER. So, the solution that Marin county has tried to apply to this problem for the last 17 years, is to support a program which offers landowners an option. Instead of having to sell the land, or consider dividing it, or developing it, they instead can sell a conservation easement. And in that way realize some of the capital value of the land without having to change what they're doing. We have spent some $17 million in the county over the last 15 years doing that. We will continue doing that, but the magnitude of the need is greater than the local funding is going to be able to meet. And because Point Reyes National Seashore is so importantly related to at least some of these agricultural lands, we are urging Congress to consider the idea of sharing with us the cost of offering this conservation option to agricultural landowners.
Mr. POMBO. Let me ask you a questionDo you have any questions
Mr. GILCHREST. Um
Mr. POMBO. Very quickly I'll ask one more question, then I'll yield to him.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Well, I thought he could yield to you if he didn't have any questions.
Mr. GILCHREST. I have one.
Mr. HANSEN. Well, why don't you take the floor
Mr. GILCHREST. I'll take my time and
Mr. HANSEN. [continuing] yield to Mr. Pombo, and then come back to your question.
Mr. GILCHREST. [continuing] yieldI'll yield to the gentleman from California, with a quick question.
Mr. HANSEN. That way, we'll use the time wisely.
Mr. POMBO. Thanks, Wayne.
Just one final question. If we came up with legislation that all it was was an authorization for a grant that would go into an organizationnot necessarily yours, but an organization like yoursto purchase conservation easement for the protection of agriculture in this area, and gave no other authority whatsoeverthat's all it didwould that accomplish what you want?
Mr. BERNER. Yes, sir. And I think that's all we think this bill does.
Mr. POMBO. No, there are a lot of concerns that this bill could go
Mr. BERNER. I understand, but that is
Mr. POMBO. [continunig] beyond that. That was the question. Thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. HANSEN. Gentleman from Maryland.
Mr. GILCHREST. I guess to some extent that was my question, and I'm from Maryland, and we have conservation easement program where we simply buy the development rights from a farmer, and then that farm stays in a permanent easement from now until the end of time. And it's an excellent program, except there's never quite enough money to do that. And there's more farmers that want to do it than there is a money available for that, and so we mixed the little Federal fund about yearI guess it's about a year ago. It's $35 million nationwide to be distributed to those states that have those kinds of programs.
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I guess I'd like maybe just a quick answer from especially the dairy rancher. Ma'am. I'm not sure where you are on this panel. But I guess if we couldwhether it's Lynn's bill or somebody else's bill, the intent here is to help state, Federal, local government, private landowners to preserve agricultural land in the United States. It's my understanding we lose about a million acres a year. In my small state of Maryland we lose 25,000 acres a year, and that's a lot for us.
So we're attempting to give money in cooperation with the state programs, to preserve agriculture, not to create natural parks or BLM landand there's nothing wrong with those thingsbut to preserve agriculture.
Now, is there anybody on the panel that has some sense that this bill would preserve agriculture for a short period of time, and the likelihood that it would turn into a national park later because of this legislation?
Ms. DOUGHTY. No.
Mr. BERNER. No, sir.
Mr. KINSEY. No.
Mr. GILCHREST. I guess we should go vote, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. OK. Thank you very much. Just let me ask one other quicky here.
You've all talked about conservation easements. Do any of you envision or support park service acquisition of private property? Keep in mind that takes it off the tax rolls. Do any of you support that?
Mr. KINSEY. Well, I consider this bill to be primarily an easement acquisition program. I think that with willing landownera willing seller and a willing buyer on the part of the Federal Government, that on a merit basis you could consider certain plans. But I would strongly discourage that because of my interest in maintaining both the tax rolls and the active agriculture in our county.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Well, thank you very much. We appreciate the panel's comments.
We'll turn to our last panel; Martin and Sally Pozzi, Mary Coletti, Donna Furlong, and Judy Borello, please come forward, please.
Now, if you folksI could ask you to wait just a minute, I'd really appreciate. We're going to have to go vote. And as soon as Lynn Woolsey gets back, the gentleman from the American Samoa will bang the gavel, and we're start again.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. The Committee will reconvene again. We'd like to call on our next panel, our final panel here.
Mr. Martin and Sally Pozzi; Ms. Mary Coletti; Ms. Donna Furlong; and Ms. Judy Borello. We would like to welcome you to the Committee, and would like to hear your testimony right now.
Mr. and Mrs. Pozzi.
STATEMENT OF MARTIN AND SALLY POZZI, RANCHERS
Mr. POZZI. Thank you. My name is Martin Pozzi. I'm a fifth generation rancher in the Sonoma Marin area. I have come to testify for this Committee, representing Cattlemen's Association and as a landowner. Ms. Woolsey, my Congresswoman, has introduced legislation which will make my ranch part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. When I first learned of this legislation she had introduced it in the 103d Congress, without even telling the landowners, and was proposing to introduce it in the 104th.
As president of the Marin County Farm Bureau, by direction of board, I indicated that the legislation was unacceptable. The major concerns were, the park boundary, private property rights, and the lack of funding. After our meeting, Lynn sent a letter to all the landowners, stating that we had met, and that our concerns had been taken care of. She has made changes, but the main concerns still remain.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As Ms. Coletti will testify, we have letters from overwhelming from overwhelming majority of landowners, indicating opposition to their land being included it the Point Reyes National Seashore.
My family sold an agriculture conservation easement to the local Marin Agricultural Land Trust organization, that this legislation was modeled after. My eight siblings and fatherall co-owners of this ranchcommitted to limiting the uses of our ranch to agriculture.
The proceeds from MALT were used to purchase a neighboring ranch to expand our agricultural holdings, making room for my brother and myself to have agricultural operations. We support the use of voluntary conservation easements as a tool for the preservation of ag lands. Our ranch will never be developed. Now we will be penalized by having it become park land, which will jeopardize the one use we were trying to protect it for. This is instant creation of park without compensation.
The creation of the Point Reyes National Seashore and acquisition of land from the owners has happened in my lifetime. I have been aware of what has happened to most of the 27 original dairies and numerous ranching operations which are all now park land. Although the original legislation was supposed to protect landowners of more than 500 acres in active agriculture, not one is still privately owned.
Correspondence from the author, her staff, and her experts claim that the program is completely voluntary. The legislation states:
Section 3, ''Addition of farmland protection areas to the Point Reyes National Seashore. a) Addition Section 2 of the Act entitled, an act to establish the Point Reyes National Seashore in the State of California, and for other purposes, is amended by adding at the end the following:
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Point Reyes National Seashore shall also include the farmland protection area.'' This is not voluntary.
The agriculture experts have openly stated that this will not preserve agriculture, and the largest agricultural organizations in the world are very distressed with a thinly veiled attempt to use agriculture for park expansion.
As Bob Vice, president of California Farm Bureau Federation wrote to her, ''You do not preserve farm and ranch land by making it part of the park system.'' Our agriculture operations are more threatened by the expansion of park than by development.
I believe the public, your constituents, want to preserve agriculture land, and are reluctant to pay for expansion of park land. The opportunity to do what Ms. Woolsey describes as voluntary use of conservation easements to protect this agriculture land with willing landowners, can and should be accomplished. Increase funding in the Department of Agriculture's Conservation Easement Program so the use of voluntary easements can be accomplished. This is the department of our government with expertise in agriculture, and should be responsible for the easements, not the Department of Interior, which specializes in parks.
I have worked my whole life on my family's 1,200-acre ranch. We had a dairy until the late 1970's, and since have raise sheep and beef cattle. I supported my youngest siblings with my ranch operation, enabling them to attend college. All nine of us graduated. My wife and I have a 2-year old daughter, who spends time with us on the ranch, and loves it as much as we do. We have a 4-month old son, and we almost named him Park Pozzi, because this issue has taken up so much of our lives. My children are the sixth generation in my family to be in agriculture. I want to ensure that my children will be able to continue my agriculture heritage.
Ever since I was in third grade I knew I wanted to be a rancher. I worked hard toward that end goal, getting my college degree in animal science with a minor in business, and being active in agricultural organizations. Please do not include this land in a national park. Thank you for allowing me to be here.
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Pozzi may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. [presiding] Thank you.
Ms. COLETTI. My turn?
Mr. POMBO. Yes.
STATEMENT OF MARY COLETTI, RANCHER
Ms. COLETTI. My name is Mary Coletti. My family has been ranching our land for five generations. This same land is being left in trust to our children, who plan to continue our ranching operation.
I have been to numerous meetings concerning this 38,000 acre park expansion bill. I have witnessed overwhelming landowner opposition, and, very little landowner support (as the map illustrates). In addition, opposition to this park expansion bill has been expressed by the farm groups and the taxpayers organizations.1
Opposition has been expressed by farm groups. American Farm Bureau Federation, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Cattlemen's Association, California Wool Growers Association (refer to letter dated 11/04/97), North Bay Wool Growers, Sonoma County Farm Bureau, Fresno County Farm Bureau, Kings County Farm Bureau. (refer to submitted letter)
Ms. Woolsey, you wrote December 5th; ''As I made clear on our November 26th meeting, I will not proceed in Washington without the support of the landowners.'' And on the 22nd of December; ''Let me assure you that Chairman Young gave me his word, and I have given the landowners my word that this bill will only move forward with local support.'' (Letters subitted for the record)
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Somehow our concerns have not been heard so I helped form ''Citizens for Protecting Farmland.'' Our purpose is to educate the public and our legislators as to the facts of this bill, and to reiterate our concerns and opposition to this bill. A packet was prepared, and I would like to enter this into the record now.
We are a group of landowners within the proposed park boundary, representing over 22,000 acres opposed to the bill. 5,700 additional acres have serious concerns, but are leery of speaking up; Plus we've just received two other letters in opposition to the bill.2
Since the publication of the packet, we recieved additional letters. 23,679.18 acres are opposed and 2,540.26 acres have major concerns for a total of 26,219.44. A letter from Margaret Nobmann, Luke and Josh Stevens are included. The charts have been updated and are included. Pages 9, 10, 10.1, 11, are included. Mr. Williamsen, 39, is deceased, his wife and children continue to be opposed to the bill.
Of the 38,000 acres, over 27,000 acres are protected from development from the Williamson Act. Over 11,500 acres are protected by the Marin County Agricultural Land Trust, MALT, and the Sonoma County Preservation Trust, SALT. More is protected by government ownership. (as maps illustrate)
Of the 38,000 acres, all development rights are protected by stringent local laws and zonings, which have been in effect for 25 years; 120 acres per dwelling in Sonoma; and 60 acres per dwelling in Marin. Marin County may be the only county to require mandatory conservation easements in order to build a dwelling. If protected by MALT, SALT, and the Williamson Act, the development rights are even more restrictive. (see map)
Because of all of the above, very few building permits have been issued over the past 10 to 15 years. further testimony that there is no push for development, nor a need for this bill. These are family farms that have been in operation since the 1800's.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC H.R. 1135 and H.R. 1995 is not the first time that farmland has been included within the Point Reyes National Seashore park boundary. Farmers fought to save their land from becoming park land in the 1960's and 1970's, and now, none of that land is privately owned.3
Merv McDonald submitted testimony pointing out that some ranchers were forced out of the boundary and the land became part of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. (Refer to the attached letter.)
Congresswoman Woolsey, if you're concerned about preserving farmland, as your title for your legislation implies, I would strongly encourage you, with Congress' help, to increase funding to the USDA Conservation Easement program and include our area as one to receive the funds to purchase easements in Sonoma and Marin Counties. This would allow funding for anyone that would like to sell their easements to their land without the expansion of the Point Reyes National Seashore park, and creating a ''public/private'' partnership or a ''local/Federal'' partnership. This would not place an involuntary park boundary over our land. We are the best stewards of our land. Keeping the agricultural easements under the Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Interior as part of a park, will help the farmers the most in the long-run as history has shown.
The large map illustrates the landowner opposition to this park expansion.4 All the maps illustrate the lack of need for such a bill to prevent development. Please help my family, and the families of the other farmers who want to continue to ranch without being included within the Point Reyes National Seashore park boundary. Having a aprk boundary over our land is not voluntary and is a waste of the taxpayers' money. Thank you for hearing me.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Opposition has been expressed to Ms. Woolsey. The chart on page 10 lists landowners who submitted letters (pages 21-70) or signed petitions (pages 71-81). To our knowledge these landowners have not changed their position and are still opposed to this legislation.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Coletti may be found at end of hearing.]
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF DONNA FURLONG, RANCHER
Ms. FURLONG. Good afternoon, gentlemen. My name is Donna Furlong, and I've been ranching for most of my adult life. After my husband passed away 14 years ago, I continued the family business of raising beef, cattle, and sheep because I wanted to pass the family tradition on to my four sons and my grandchildren.
I am here today as a landowner who will be affected, and also as a representative of the California Wool Growers Association. You all received a letter from the California Wool Growers. I would like to read an excerpt of that letter.
''The California Wool Growers Association opposes H.R. 1135 and H.R. 1995, which expands the Point Reyes National Seashore. Both of the respective bills are misleading in title and summary. While the author claims to be giving the Secretary of Agriculture the authority and appropriations for farmland conservation easements, it is clear that this is nothing more than a park expansion bill. And while the author insists that the bill is intended to preserve farmland, it does nothing more than create public access, where there's now private farmland, at the expense of taxpayers, local farmers, and ranchers.''
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Most of the people I know want to preserve this farmland for future generations. They do not disagree with conservation easement, but do not want to be included within a park boundary. This has been touted as buffer zone for the park. The bay is already a natural buffer zone. Park land means public access, and public access means lots of headaches for a rancher.
This bill in the beginning offered assurances that no public trails could be put through the properties involved. This was taken out. This is a grave concern of mine. The general public will not honor a fence, and once they enter your property, even though they have no right whatsoever to be there, they want you to be responsible for their actions. What if my bull doesn't like their looks?
My main concern is funding. This bill is on a matching-fund basis. Marin County does not have sales tax to fund open space and conservation easement. Marin County taxpayers voted down Measure A last November, which would have provided the Marin Agricultural Land Trust with money to fund conservation easements. The voters of California turned down Cal Paw 1994 which would have provided the Marin Agricultural Land Trust with money. The voters have said they do not want to fund more park land, so where will Marin County get the matching fund? The only matching fund Marin County has is around $15 million. Fifteen million dollars is not enough to purchase conservation easements within this boundary.
Before such a bill is ever considered, there should be enough funds available for just compensation for all properties within the area. You should not put a boundary around land, and then decide what just compensation is, and where the money will come from. A licensed appraiser has told me that being in a park boundary cannot help but lower your property value.
Most people in agriculture want to continue, but it has to be viable. If you are truly interested in saving ag, help us with the bottom line, but don't put a boundary around it. If I put an easement on my property, and you allow predators to run amok as they do in the park, and I can no longer raise livestock, what do I do? Sit and look at my beautiful view of the ocean, or sell out at a very reduced price? I feel that this bill takes away my property rights with out just compensation. My property rights have already been infringed on by the Coastal Commission, the Planning Department, and the Gulf of Farallones National Marin Sanctuary. Don't add another layer of regulation. I would urge you please not to consider this bill. Thank you.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Ms. Furlong may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Thank you very much. Ms. Borello.
STATEMENT OF JUDY BORELLO, RANCHER
Ms. BORELLO. My name is Judy Borello, and I own a 864-acre ranch within the proposed Farmland Protection Act. My reasons for opposing this bill are as follows:
When Ms. Woolsey, by the way, got up here today and said that the peoplethe ranchers for her bill within the zone are more in the majority to support the billit's totally wrong and bogus. Two-thirds of the ranchers within the proposed boundary do not want the supposed protection that her bill recommends. And the proofyou can always talk to Martin Pozzi, who's past president of the Farm Bureau, because there were signed letters, signed signatures; two-thirds of the majority of the ranchers within the zone are opposed to the bill.
In 1972 we could build a house on every 2 acres, then we ranchers were rezoned one house every 60 acres; a devaluation of 30 times of our property value. Right after the great devaluation took place, 95 percent of the ranchers joined a state program called Williamson Act. For a substantial reduction in taxes the ranchers opted to not develop their ranches, leaving their land in open space for the next 10 years. But the program automatically self renews itself every day for 10 years. So, every day you're being renewed for 10 years, and so far I haven't known any rancher that's pulled out of Williamson Act, so there's a real layer of protection right there.
On top of these two layers or protection, 40 percent of the 38,000 acres within the proposed boundary has been purchased by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, which is referred to as MALT. This means that, even though the development rights cannot be used under Williamson Actin other words they're kind of in a neutered positionthey are now permanently extinguished under the rights to purchase a MALT easement.
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To add to all of this already protection of the land on the east shore of Tomales Bay, which is the land in question on this bill, is a very scarce amount of water, due to the fact that our land is geologically referred to as Franciscan formation, which is known for its low bearing and inadequate for water bearing supplies. There are like scarce pockets of the water in different places, but it basically isn't an abundantly watered piece of land. Reference to USGS Water Supply Paper 1427, Geology and Groundwater in Sonoma and Marin Counties is where you can find this information.
Summing all of this up and based on a logical conclusion, do we need to spend the hard-earned tax dollar of the American people to purchase what is already protected? There is 80,000 acres of park land already purchased, and can't be fully maintained because of the lack of funding. So why purchase more? In fact, over 50 percent of our Marin County is off the private tax rolls, and these are in state, Federal, or county park or open spaced districts.
My ranch is being lethally affected by this bill because, my late husband, Robert Borello, who met an untimely death due a car accident in October 1992, was the past president of the Farm Bureau, and one of the longest serving directors in past history. He was a staunch believer in retaining agricultural land values and property rights. He opted not to put Borello Ranch under Williamson Act, believing that if you take the government carrot, you get the government noose. He kept his development right intact by paying full taxes, developed a thriving rock quarry, septic ponds for the West Marin County community, and parts of Sonoma County. He developed large dams on the property, one of which is 40-acre foot dam, and spring fed, never losing half of its capacity. His hard work, foresight, and determination created these assets, and now with this Farmland Protection Act on a seemingly not-well-hidden park bill, I stand to lose a lot as well as my neighbors.
The quarry has been idle since Robert's death. Three quarry outfits have wanted to lease it, but when faced with the pending park bill, have backed off, watching to see what happens. On November 17th the quarry will be reviewed by the Board on Mining, and there's a chance the quarry could be closed permanently because idle position is granted for only so long of a time.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Due to this 5-year fracas over this park billlet alone if it passedI stand to lose a substantial amount of money while it also clouds the title to sell my ranch to the private sector. I believe that my fellow ranchers and myself deserve a lot better from this. I would like to see agriculture easements available to ranchers, but not at the expense of forcing the many into while a few gain a deal. It's very funny to me that the agriculturalists, the ranchers themselves, including the ag experts in this deal say, they don't want it, it's not protecting them, when in fact it weakens them. But the politically non-savvy, non-agriculturally knowledgeable people, will tell the rancher what's right for him, and force it upon him, while portraying to the public how they saved agriculture.
I know that the Democrats and Republicans have come together over fiscal responsibility issues, and I hope that this Committee will see the wisdom of not wasting taxpayers' money on this faulty bill. Perhaps if this bill guaranteed the rancher the right to be fully compensated for his land as in the original park bill, it would have a chance; but not this forced boundary with limited compensation.
Thank you for allowing me time to speak on this issue. P.S. Many politicians and environmentalists lust after our privately owned land. They refer to it as their sacred viewshed. Don't try to take it from us with this cheap shot Farm Land Protection Act bill; after all, I believe there is still a commandment that says Thou shall not steal. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Borello may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you. Mr. Faleomavaega.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to defer to the gentlelady from California.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, I understand that after this vote, we're going to have six in a row, so let's try to do this, and then we can let everybody out of this room.
Page 137 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First of all, I want you to know, all of you up here as witnesses, thank you for coming. I cannot wait until the day we sit down, realize the misinformation that's been kicked around, and realize the benefits of still being in agriculture and at the same time your neighbors have the benefit of volunteering into these easements if they want them. I look forward to that. I think it's going to happen. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think it could happen.
But, you know, there's a lot of confusion. There's something that confuses me, Judy, about your testimony. I know after our sitting and talking you worry about the value of your quarry. In response to this concern, this bill includes language, language actually that Representative Pombo questioned. It's on page 5, line 13 of the bill.
Ms. BORELLO. Lynn, can I say something here?
Ms. WOOLSEY. No, no, let me finish, please.
Ms. BORELLO. To answer you.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, I will let you. But I want to make sure you know that this bill makes it possible for you and others to negotiate voluntarily for in-fee purchase of your land. And that was so that you could be fully compensated for that land.
So my question to you, how could you be against this bill, when actually your major concern is answered in the bill?
Ms. BORELLO. OK, I will answer you. First of all, when this bill first started, Gary Giacomini was our supervisor. He was going to get $70 or $80 million worth of seed money here to try to take care of everybody. I was at that time told by Gary, who was friends with my late husband, that my ranch would come out in fee, because it is the only real deal. It isn't in Williamson Act. It has development rights.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, you could put it in.
Ms. BORELLO. OK. It has a quarry. It's very diverse from the other ranches, all right?
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WOOLSEY. OK, I'm going
Ms. BORELLO. But let me finish
Ms. WOOLSEY. No, wait a minute. I need to take
Ms. BORELLO. So then I count on the facts
Ms. WOOLSEY. No, excuse me, Judy.
Ms. BORELLO. [continuing] that I'm going to be bought out in fee, and all of a sudden at the April meeting with you
Mr. POMBO. The gentlewoman from California controls the time, and we're trying to keep this
Ms. WOOLSEY. Yes. Judy, let me respond.
Mr. POMBO. [continuing] I'm trying to keep this as good as we can.
Ms. BORELLO. Well, I need to answer her question.
Ms. WOOLSEY. No, Judy, what you need to know
Ms. BORELLO. At that meeting you guys dumped me, but in the meantime the bill wasn't taking care of other people either.
Mr. POMBO. Please, let's try to keep this as calm as we can. I will give you ample opportunity to respond. If there is not time in the hearing, I will give you the opportunity to respond in writing, and your entire testimony will be included in the record at this point.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you very much, Mr. Pombo.
And Judy, it's not that I'm cutting you off. I've got a lot of questions. And my point is, we did answer your concern in the bill. So we'll go from there to more misinformation.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The point keeps being made by those at the table that the landowners in the pastoral zone at the Point Reyes National Seashore ended up having their land purchased. They came to the Congress and asked if they could be bought out. That is why it happened. They came to the Congress and asked, because the original bill prohibited purchase of their land, and that request was honored. So please, we don't need that misinformation.
There is also misinformation about whether or not the majority of the landowners support this bill. Believe me, I sat with them, one-on-one; the majority does. The Citizens for Protecting Farmlands report has people listed that have sent me letters just recently, supporting the bill. You have a deceased person on that list. You have people registered both as property owners, and they're counted twice. You're double-counting people.
So, all I can tell you, is that that's
Ms. BORELLO. Could you supply us with signatures
Ms. WOOLSEY. [continuing] misinformation.
Ms. BORELLO. [continuing] of people that are for your bill
Mr. POMBO. Is that a question?
Ms. WOOLSEY. No, my question isnow, I want to go on beyond that. I want to talk about the letter of misinformation that came from the Woolgrowers. Actually an example of the misinformationmy point is proved in what you said, Donna. You say thatyou're quoting them, ''While the author claims to be giving the Secretary of Agriculture the authority . . .'' It shows how little they know about this bill. It's the Secretary of Interior that we're dealing with.
People have not paid any attention to this bill. The information that came from the cattlemen, full paragraph, talking about letting people on the land for viewing, public access, no hunting. None of thatall of that is protected for you in the bill; absolutely.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC How are we ever going to get together when I keep hearing misinformation. You refuse to hear what's really in the bill. Once you do, and then I think we deal with it actually.
Now, Martin and Sally, I have a question.
I understand that you sold your conservation easements on your land.
Mr. POZZI. Correct.
Ms. WOOLSEY. And that has worked well for your family, I believe.
Mr. POZZI. Correct.
Ms. WOOLSEY. I think you need to know a story that I heard when I was going around talking to the neighbors and the farmers.
Two different farmers that I talked tolandowners who have MALTED easements on their land, told me point blankand now I'm telling you they told me this. They told me that they did not like my bill because if their neighbor needed to sell they did not want to have to compete with fair market value. They didn't want to compete with H.R. 1995; they wanted to buy their neighbor out cheap.
Is that fair?
Mr. POZZI. I can't tell you about cheap because the appraisals
Ms. WOOLSEY. Well they want to go below the appraisal, they tell me.
Mrs. POZZI. We are in favor of the use of voluntary conservation easements for the preservation of agricultural lands. We are opposed to our land becoming part of a park. We have sold our development right, and we didn't ask that anyone else have their land be included in a national park or have any other limitation in order for our land to have the conservation easement. There are conservation easement programs available, and we request that you use those, instead of including all of our land in a park, and you expand on the funding in the program that's available, instead of causing this limitation on our land. We want to continue an active agricultural productiona productive agriculture.
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WOOLSEY. Well, I'm with you. We're definitely together on that.
Mr. POMBO. I'm going to have to cut you off.
Ms. WOOLSEY. And I've used up all my time.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Mr. POMBO. I'm going to have to cut you off. And I've got to apologize to this panel. We have a series of six or seven votes, which means we're going to be over there for about 2 hours, and I'm not going to make you stay here for the 2 hours.
I will tell you that there are questions that I have, that Mr. Faleomavaega had, and that Mr. Hansen, the chairman of the Subcommittee, had for this panel. Those will be submitted to you in writing.
I will encourage each of you, if you have further statements that you would like to have included as part of the official record, to do that, and I will hold the record open on this hearing for 10 days, to give you an opportunity to have all of your information included in the official record of this hearing. But unfortunately because of the voting schedule, I'm going to have to adjourn the hearing. And again, I apologize to all of you for the long wait in the abbreviated hearing. But thank you very much for coming.
Ms. BORELLO. Thank you for hearing us out.
Mr. POMBO. The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 3:40 p.m., the Committee was adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]
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