Land Conveyance and Acquisition Bills: H.R. 3336



STATEMENT OF STEPHEN E. WHITESELL,

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS,

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS,

OF THE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING H.R. 3336 TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR

TO CARRY OUT A STUDY TO DETERMINE THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY

OF ESTABLISHING A HISTORIC DISTRICT TO THE CAMP HALE

ON PARCELS OF LAND IN THE STATE OF COLORADO.

JULY 10, 2008

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 3336, the Camp Hale Historic District Study Act.

The Department has no objection to the purpose of H.R. 3336. Through subsequent discussions with staff, we understand that the sponsor intends that the study proposed in the legislation should determine the suitability and feasibility of including the site as a unit in the National Park System as opposed to a Historic District. As noted below, we are happy to work with the sponsor and Subcommittee staff to ensure that the bill reflects the sponsor's intentions.

H.R. 3336 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary), not later than two years after funds are made available, to conduct a special resource study to evaluate the suitability and feasibility of including Camp Hale in the National Park System as a National Historic District. The study would examine the significance of Camp Hale in relation to the defense of the United States during the Cold War and the use of Camp Hale as a training site for the 10th Mountain Division and for training Tibetan fighters in the 1960s.

Located in the White River National Forest, in west-central Colorado, Camp Hale was established in 1942 to provide winter and mountain warfare training during World War II, because of the natural setting of a large, flat valley bottom, surrounded by steep hillsides suitable for training in skiing, rock climbing and cold weather survival skills. The size of Camp Hale varied between 5,000 and 247,243 acres when it was an active military installation.

The site is currently known as The Camp Hale Formerly Used Defense Site and is now used year-round by the public as a U.S. Forest Service recreation area and is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since the time Camp Hale was used for military training, there have been numerous discoveries of unexploded ordinance (UXO) there. As recently as 2003, during efforts to contain a wildfire, UXO used during the training of U.S. troops in World War II was found on the site.

Efforts to remediate public risk from any remaining UXO at Camp Hale continue. The funding for any response actions at Camp Hale will depend on how the UXO sites there rank nationally. Depending on that rank, and available federal dollars, the remedial investigations for some or all Camp Hale munitions may not occur for years. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has discussed this project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As previously noted, we understand that the sponsor's intent is to study Camp Hale and determine the suitability and feasibility of including the site as a unit in the National Park System, as opposed to a Historic District. We are happy to work with both the sponsor and Subcommittee staff to ensure that the bill will accomplish the sponsor's intent that the Secretary conduct such a study. However, priority would have to be given to the 38 previously authorized studies for potential units of the National Park System, potential new National Heritage Areas, and potential additions to the National Trails System and National Wild and Scenic River System that have not yet been transmitted to the Congress. We estimate the cost of this study would be approximately $300,000. We would also suggest that the Title of the bill be amended to reflect the purpose of the study.

The story of Camp Hale and the men and women who trained there reflects the adaptability our nation showed during the last World War. Many of those who trained there went on to develop alpine skiing as a recreational activity, significantly influencing the economy of Colorado and many other western States. Studying and determining how best to preserve and protect Camp Hale and to commemorate the sacrifice and heroism so many Americans exhibited as a result of their training is laudable.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions you or any other members of the subcommittee may have.