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Senate committee approves Pueblo land transfer bill
THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2003

The following is a press release from Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today passed U.S. Senator Pete Domenici’s bill to transfer the control of nearly 4,500 acres of remote surplus federal property to the San Ildefonso and Santa Clara pueblos in northern New Mexico.

The committee, which Domenici chairs, today approved legislation (S.246) that will place approximately 4,484 acres located in the eastern foothills of the Jemez Mountains in trust for the San Ildefonso and Santa Clara pueblos. The property, which includes portions of Garcia and Chupadero canyons, was declared “disposal property” by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 1988.

The transfer follows years of negotiations between the federal government and the pueblos. About 2,000 acres of the Garcia Canyon surplus land is within the aboriginal domain of the San Ildefonso Pueblo, and approximately 2,484 acres are within Santa Clara Pueblo’s aboriginal lands.

“I am glad we are making progress on this bill and I have every intention of seeing it enacted this year. The pueblos have put a lot of work into gathering support for this transfer. I believe they are committed to appropriate management of these surplus federal lands. And ultimately, this transfer will serve to restore tribal control over these lands,” Domenici said.

The Senate bill was cosponsored by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman.

“This land is important to the San Ildefonso and Santa Clara pueblos for cultural and religious reasons. Given that the federal government has deemed it surplus, I believe transferring it to the pueblos at this time is the right move,” Bingaman said. “Now that we've got the Energy Committee's endorsement, it is my hope this legislation will pass the full Senate in the coming weeks.”

Domenici said the support gathered by the pueblos for the land transfer is still valid. Supporting resolutions were passed last year by Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties, the National Congress of American Indians, and support letters were issued by the National Audubon Society’s New Mexico State Office, the Quivira Coalition and the Santa Fe Group of the Sierra Club.

The BLM and Interior Department support for the transfer was contingent on the San Ildefonso and Santa Clara pueblos agreeing on a division of the Garcia Canyon surplus lands. In response, the two pueblos signed a formal agreement affirming the boundary between their respective parcels on Dec. 20, 2000.

There are currently no resource permits, leases, patents or claims affecting the surplus lands, and it is unlikely that any significant minerals exist within the Garcia Canyon transfer lands. The Garcia Canyon transfer lands contain a limited amount of lesser quality forage for livestock and have not been actively grazed for over a decade.

The San Ildefonso-Santa Clara pueblos bill was passed by the Senate committee last October, but was among dozens of public lands bills that languished and died in the 107th Congress.

Get the Bill:
A bill to provide that certain Bureau of Land Management land shall be held in trust for the Pueblo of Santa Clara and the Pueblo of San Ildefonso (S.246)

Relevant Links:
Sen. Pete Domenici - http://domenici.senate.gov

Related Stories:
Bill restores land to two Pueblos (08/02)

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