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On this day in history...
Posted by Neal Kirby on December 17, 2012

The Committee on Natural Resources can trace its history back more than 200 years ago.

On this day in 1805, the House of Representatives created the Committee on Public Lands, to help Congress manage the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase Territory. Stretching northwest from the port of New Orleans to present-day Montana, the territory covered more than 828,000 square miles.

Backed by several Members, Rep. William Findley of Pennsylvania proposed creating “a committee respecting the lands of the United States” on December 17, 1805.

The Committee on Public Lands was charged with considering “all such petitions, and matters or things, respecting the lands of the United States, as shall be presented, or shall or may come into question, and be referred to them by the House; and to report their opinion thereupon, together with such propositions for relief therein, as to them shall seem expedient.”

As new territory came under government control, the Public Lands Committee gained jurisdiction over land sales, grants to railroads, efforts to prevent speculation, national parks, conservation, forests, and mineral and water rights.

Under the 1946 Legislative Reorganization Act, the Committee on Public Lands absorbed the legislative and oversight roles of a host of other committees created to organize the nation’s 19th-century expansion, among them private land claims, mines and mining, and insular affairs.

While the names have changed and the jurisdiction of the Committee has expanded over the years, the Committee’s purpose remains the same: overseeing the nation’s public lands and the responsible management of its natural resources.

Source: The Office of History and Preservation, Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives

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