Congresswoman Martha McSally

Representing the 2nd District of Arizona

McSally Urges Senate to Take Up Bill to Grant City of Tucson Ownership of Udall Park

April 19, 2018
Press Release
Resolves 28-Year-Old Land Exchange, Allows City of Tucson to Expand and Improve Cherished Urban Park

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Martha McSally today sent a letter to the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources urging the committee to take up her bill to grant the City of Tucson full ownership of Udall Park. The City of Tucson has been working to clarify its ownership of the park for 28 years. The Congresswoman’s legislation clarifying ownership unanimously passed the House in October and is awaiting further action in the Senate.

“Udall Park is a cherished urban park in the heart of Tucson. However, unresolved disputes over this land with the Bureau of Land Management have directly prevented the City from making the park all that it can be. Tucson can’t even host a farmer’s market there because of this dispute! It’s silly that this requires an act of Congress, but since it does, I will continue to work to resolve this longstanding issue so the community can take full advantage of Udall Park,” said Congresswoman McSally.

At Congresswoman McSally’s invitation, Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega came to Congress in July to testify on the City of Tucson’s support for McSally’s legislation. In his testimony, he explained how a reversion clause in the 1989 agreement with BLM has prevented the City of Tucson from having full autonomy and ownership for Udall Park to the City of Tucson—and how Rep. McSally’s legislation, the Udall Park Land Exchange Completion Act, will address the problem.

“I want to thank Representative McSally and the entire Arizona Congressional delegation for working with the City to complete this land transfer nearly 28 years in the making,” said Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega. “The existence of the reverter has directly impeded the City from taking advantage of commercial opportunities to supplement park funding, approve certain community events or look to other commercial ventures on small portions of the park that would benefit the city in general,” he said while testifying before the committee.  “This is a unique situation, unlike any other reverter elimination being proposed anywhere on BLM administered lands. H.R. 1547 is needed to complete what should have been completed almost 28 years ago, and to provide an enhanced recreational and economic future for the citizens of Tucson and its environs.”

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a subcommittee hearing on McSally’s legislation in February. In her letter, Congresswoman McSally urged the committee to pass the legislation and “bring closure to a land exchange between the City of Tucson and the Bureau of Land Management almost three decades ago.”

The full text of the letter is below, or click HERE to read the pdf.

 

Dear Chair Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell:

We are writing to urge the Committee to bring closure to a land exchange between the City of Tucson and the Bureau of Land Management almost three decades ago. H.R. 1547, the Udall Park Land Exchange Completion Act brings the matter to a satisfactory conclusion and honors an historic agreement between the two parties. This legislation passed the House unanimously by a vote of 401-0 after being reported by the Committee on Natural Resources.

We thank you for holding a subcommittee hearing on the Senate companion bill in February, and strongly request that your committee bring up the bill for consideration at the next business meeting.

Passage of the legislation would provide for the unencumbering of title to 173 acres of non-Federal land owned by the City of Tucson, Arizona for purposes of economic development by conveyance of the Federal reversionary interest to the City. We believe the specific circumstances requiring passage of this legislation are very different from other legislation intended to eliminate reverters from Recreation and Public Purposes Act Patents issued to other entities by the Bureau of Land Management.

In 1989, by signed agreement, the City transferred a parcel of land to the BLM that was valued at $4 million, resolved a long-standing $324,000 gravel trespass of Federal minerals by a private company and paid $145,00 to move a USGS facility to other Federal lands. In exchange, the BLM granted the subject R&PP Patent, with a reverter, to the City of Tucson and the BLM State Director signed a letter to the City promising to support Federal legislation to remove the reverter. There were exigent circumstances requiring the matter to be handled in this manner. The City believed everyone would honor the agreement, which was fully supported by the Arizona delegation and BLM’s Headquarters at the time.

Twenty-eight years have passed and this issue is begging to be resolved on behalf of the City as soon as possible. Udall Park is one of the most popular recreational destinations for Tucson residents, and it is also a living tribute to one of the great Arizonans of the 20th Century, Congressman Mo Udall.

Thank you for your time and attention to this needed legislation.

Congresswoman Martha McSally