In California, legislation allowing the Morongo Band Of Mission Indians to exchange land with a private property owner has been approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The approval means that landowner Lloyd Fields can now swap some 41 acres of undeveloped land encircled by the Morongo Indian Reservation for an equally-valued plot of tribal trust property located along the border of the over 35,000-acre reservation.

The Morongo Band Of Mission Indians, which operates the Morongo Casino, Resort And Spa approximately 85 miles east of Los Angeles, explained that the legislation will help to alleviate the current checkerboard appearance of its reservation and allow it to pursue new economic development opportunities.

“This legislation is a true win-win for the community and for generating future private economic development opportunities that will create jobs, housing and revenues for the region,” said Robert Martin, Tribal Chairman for the Morongo Band Of Mission Indians.

The Morongo Band Of Mission Indians stated that the measure has also established an easement that will enable the city of Banning to improve utilities to underserved areas while Fields declared that the land trade will create new opportunities to develop his property.

“I am very pleased with this arrangement, which will enhance access to my property,” said Fields. “I want to thank the Morongo [Band Of Mission Indians], the city of Banning, [United States] Senator [Barbara] Boxer and [United States] Congressmen [Raul] Ruiz and [Paul] Cook for helping develop a great solution that benefits everyone involved.”

Federal approval is needed before any reservation lands can change hands with the California legislation being carried by Ruiz in the United States House Of Representatives while fellow Democrat Boxer served as its champion in the United States Senate.

“We appreciate the Morongo [Band Of Mission Indians’] cooperation and assistance in identifying a solution that worked in the best interest of all parties involved,” said Don Peterson from the Banning City Council. “This land swap is important because it will help create new economic opportunities here in the city.”

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