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Raul Ruiz

12/08/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/08/2021 20:31

House Passes Ruiz’s Landmark Legislation to Confirm Tribal Trust Land for Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Washington, D.C. - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation authored by Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) to take more than 2,500 acres of land in the San Jacinto Mountains into trust for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. H.R. 897, the Agua Caliente Land Exchange Fee to Trust Confirmation Act, would allow the Tribe to further their conservation efforts and practice consistent forest management.

"I am thrilled that the House passed my bill, the Agua Caliente Land Exchange Fee to Trust Confirmation Act, with unanimous bipartisan support," said Dr. Ruiz. "By fulfilling an agreement between the federal government and Agua Caliente, my legislation will honor the federal government's trust responsibility to Tribal nations. As this much-needed legislation heads to the Senate, I look forward to continuing to work alongside Chairman Grubbe to help the Tribe manage these lands in accordance with their traditions and with respect for the environment and wildlife."

"The passage of H.R. 897 represents one of the final steps in bringing approximately 2,560 acres of land owned by the Tribe into trust for the Tribe and making those lands part of the Reservation," said Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. "The action of bringing this land into trust will improve land management that directly benefits ongoing management of trails, invasive species and endangered Big Horn Sheep habitat. In addition, the Tribe will manage conservation lands that have long-standing cultural and natural resource value to our people. These final steps mean that the Tribe once again is the primary steward of land for the benefit of all future generations. The Tribe looks forward to Senate approval and moving the bill on to the President's desk."

BACKGROUND

The Palm Springs area east of Mt. San Jacinto is home to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (ACBCI) and has been officially set aside by the United States government since 1876. All the land traditionally held by the Cahuilla people has been divided into even and odd parcels - known as a "checkerboard" - between the tribe, government, and private landowners. Over the past few decades, ACBCI has been involved in a series of land transfers with the United States government to consolidate their land and reclaim historically and culturally valuable areas.

H.R. 897 would fulfill a 1999 agreement between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians to acquire and exchange lands within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument and allow these lands to be managed in a cooperative and coordinated manner. A land exchange for these parcels between BLM and ACBCI was finalized in March 2019.

The land that was acquired by ACBCI from the BLM through the land exchange is in a remote wilderness area within the Monument and will be managed as conservation land similar to how the land was managed by the BLM.

Taking this land into trust will complete the BLM-ACBCI agreement and allow ACBCI and BLM to consolidate the "checkerboard" land ownership in and around the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. The goal of consolidating the land ownership is to provide more logical and consistent land management.

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