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Bill would create new rules for federal land transfers

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Two bills designed to improve transparency in federal land exchanges and acquisitions were introduced by a Colorado Representative. The bills would apply to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The legislation, introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), became available online on the congressional website on Thursday, July 17. Tipton says the bills would protect private property owners.

The Land Agency Notification & Disclosure (LAND) Act (H.R. 5074) would apply to both agencies when they buy, sell or transfer land. It would require them to give advance written notification to landowners. Owners of adjacent lands would also have to be notified. Any third parties used to facilitate the transactions, such as real estate brokers, would have to take certain technical steps, such as providing certain information to the parties involved.

The other bill, the Resurveys Entitle Adjacent Landowners to Protection (REAL Protection) Act (H.R. 5075), would amend the BLM's resurvey methods to give landholders specific rights. If a resurvey shows that land previously thought to be privately-held actually belongs to the government, the private party would get right of first refusal to buy the land at fair market value minus any major improvements made to it, for instance. If the party did any significant improvements, it would have to be reimbursed at fair market value. If people in good faith thought the land was private, they could not be charged with trespass.

The bill would also require the BLM to notify anyone holding such land of plans of a resurvey at least a month in advance. BLM would also have to publish the results of the resurvey in the Federal Register within a month of completing it.

Neither bill picked up any cosponsors. The LAND Act was referred to the committees on Agriculture and Natural Resources (NR). The REAL Protection Act was referred to NR.

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