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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Relating to the Ownership of Certain Lands Along the Colorado River

November 14, 1966

I have withheld my approval from H.R. 13955, "Establishing the Past and Present Location of a Certain Portion of the Colorado River for Certain Purposes."

This bill would have the effect of conveying 2,100 acres of public lands to a group of 19 individuals and corporations without payment of compensation. This bill comes at a time when the United States District Court in Arizona has, under active consideration, the complex and legal factual issues involving the ownership of these very lands. The bill comes after the government's ownership has been established with respect to almost 1,000 other occupants of land in this area.

In the late 1950's investigation by the Department of the Interior disclosed that more than 1,000 persons were illegally occupying public lands along the Lower Colorado River. Subsequently, the Department initiated actions under which most of these occupants either vacated the land or explicitly recognized Federal ownership. Other occupants were removed following successful legal action by the Government. Litigation in regard to others is still pending.

The courts are the traditional forum for determining legal questions relating to land ownership and I see no reason for making a special exception here and interfering with the orderly judicial process. If the case is resolved in favor of the claimants, they will receive title to the land without the present bill. If the case is resolved against the claimants and the Congress believes that the equities were so compelling that relief should have been granted, the Congress can act after the factual issues have been fully litigated and a complete record has been assembled.


The White House

November 14, 1966

Lyndon B. Johnson, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Relating to the Ownership of Certain Lands Along the Colorado River Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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