WATCH: Sen. Kelly Champions Land Transfer Bills to Create Veterans Center, Solar Farm in Rural Arizona

Yesterday, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining hearing, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly championed two bills to support community projects in Gila and La Paz Counties.  

The first bill, introduced by Kelly, would transfer an underutilized Forest Service ranger station near Young, Arizona and the accompanying 232 acres to Gila County to be used as a veterans retreat and community center. The site would provide a gathering space for Gila County’s 5,200 veterans and their families and serve as a mobile veterans clinic for those who cannot easily access a VA Medical Center. A companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Eli Crane (R-AZ-02).  

The second bill—the La Paz County Solar Energy and Job Creation Act—which was introduced by Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and cosponsored by Kelly, would create good-paying renewable energy jobs by transferring roughly 4,800 acres of federal land to La Paz County for the completion of a large-scale solar farm.  

Sen. Kelly delivers remarks during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing

Click here to watch Sen. Kelly’s remarks. See below for a complete transcript: 

I want to first of all thank you for including S. 1015 and S. 1657 in this hearing. I was proud to introduce this first bill earlier this Congress with Representative Crane leading efforts in the House. 

The transfer of this 232-acre area will allow Gila County to build a veterans center in Young, Arizona that will serve not only the nearly 5,500 military veterans who call Gila County home, but also veterans throughout rural Arizona. This center will be the first of its kind in northern Arizona, providing the community with a space to gather. 

Additionally, this new center will also serve as a mobile clinic for veterans who cannot easily access a VA Medical Center. This is going to help address some of the disparities facing veterans living in rural areas and improve their long-term health outcomes. 

As a Navy veteran myself, I’m committed to keeping America’s promises to our veterans and delivering the care and benefits that they’ve earned. This piece of legislation provides a place for our veterans in Gila County and will help veterans in a rural area of northern Arizona get the support and resources that they need. I appreciate the Forest Service’s support of this bill in Deputy Chief French’s written testimony. 

Senator Sinema and I introduced the second bill, which would transfer 4,800 acres from the Bureau of Land Management [BLM] to La Paz County at fair market value. This land will be used for solar energy projects, attracting economic development opportunities to an underserved community. 

That’s going to create good-paying Arizona jobs, facilitate the transition to clean energy, and ensure La Paz County’s economy continues to grow. Mr. Heinlein—who I believe is here—I appreciate you testifying today, and BLM’s commitment to making the bill work for everyone. 

Madam Chair, thank you for holding this hearing.