Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Monday applauded the passage of House Resolution 3008, legislation she authored to convey a small parcel of land in the Los Padres National Forest to the White Lotus Foundation. The legislation passed 367-27.
“This is a straightforward bill to provide a reasonable solution for the White Lotus Foundation and the Forest Service," Capps said. "I’m pleased this bipartisan effort to resolve this longstanding issue is moving forward."
The White Lotus Foundation’s property contains small encroachments onto the Los Padres National Forest created by the previous owner several decades ago. The foundation and Forest Service have spent several years attempting to find an administrative solution to the encroachments, but have determined that legislation is the only viable way to permanently resolve the issue.
Previous versions of the legislation sponsored by former Rep. Elton Gallegly passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the 111th and 112th Congresses as H.R. 129 and H.R. 241, respectively. H.R. 129 passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources but did not advance further.
Remarks of Rep. Capps in support of H.R. 3008:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of my legislation, HR 3008.
"My legislation will authorize the Forest Service to convey a small parcel of land on the perimeter of the Los Padres National Forest in my district to a local nonprofit, the White Lotus Foundation.
"Over 30 years ago, the White Lotus Foundation purchased property on the border of the Los Padres National Forest in the hills above Santa Barbara, California.
"Soon after acquiring the property, the foundation received notice of a small encroachment onto a piece of Forest Service land that is detached from the rest of the forest.
"This encroachment is located on the only road that allows White Lotus and the public access to and from the foundation’s property.
"Due to the steep topography of the area, there are no other reasonable alternatives that would retain public access to the facility.
"One piece of the encroachment lies on flat ground that holds equipment for fire and flood emergencies, and provides access to a water pump and other necessary equipment.
"There are no other viable areas to move this equipment, so without this small piece of land, the facility would be forced to close its doors.
"White Lotus and the Forest Service have spent several years searching for an administrative solution, but have determined that legislation is the only viable way to permanently resolve this matter.
"My legislation simply authorizes the Forest Service to enter into a land exchange with the White Lotus Foundation for land worth no less than the appraised market value.
"If this land exchange does not occur within two years, the Forest Service will sell the small parcel of land to the Foundation at fair market value.
"Prior to the exchange or sale of this land, however, the Forest Service must first certify that it is in the public interest and it can also impose additional conditions it deems appropriate.
"Also, it’s important to note that if the land sale does go forward, it will not cost taxpayers a dime.
"The legislation requires White Lotus to pay for the land, the survey, and all administrative and related costs. There are no exemptions from NEPA or any other environmental laws.
"And the land in question is not protected wilderness or any other specially designated area.
"This is a straightforward bill to provide a reasonable solution for the White Lotus Foundation and the Forest Service.
"In fact, nearly identical legislation sponsored by our former Republican colleague, Elton Gallegly passed this House unanimously last Congress.
"This area is now in my Congressional district, and I am pleased to sponsor the bill this Congress.
"Again, I thank the Chairman and Ranking Member for bringing this bill to the floor, and urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
"I yield back."
— C.J. Young is a press assistant for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.