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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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National Parks Bills: H.R. 3998




STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON,

ACTING ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

U. S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS

OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING H.R. 3998, AMERICA'S HISTORICAL AND NATURAL LEGACY STUDY ACT.

April 9, 2008

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 3998, a bill that authorizes the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to conduct nine special resources studies of certain lands and structures to determine the appropriate means for their preservation, use and management, including possible inclusion within the National Park System or the National Trails System.

 The Department supports the authorization of seven of the studies: for the Battles of Matewan and Camden, the Mississippi River, Fort San Geronimo, the Rim of the Valley, the Butterfield Overland Trail, and the Eastern Legacy sites of the Lewis and Clark Trail.  The Department does not object to the authorization of the study for the Harry S Truman Birthplace site.  The Department opposes the authorization of the study of the Wolf House.  However, the Department feels that priority should be given to the 32 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.

 Title I of H.R. 3998 authorizes the Secretary to conduct a special resource study to determine the suitability and feasibility of adding the Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site, located in Lamar, Missouri, to the Harry S Truman National Historic Site or designating the site as a separate unit of the National Park System. The study would also determine the methods and means for protection and interpretation of the site by federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations.

 The Department does not object to the enactment of Title I.  President Harry S Truman was born in the house in Lamar, Missouri, and lived there with his family until he was approximately 11 months old. The birthplace is currently a State Historic Site operated and maintained by the Division of Parks and Recreation of the State of Missouri. Harry S Truman National Historic Site operates two units, the Truman Home in Independence and the Truman Farm Home in Grandview, from the operational center in Independence. The birthplace site in Lamar is approximately 120 miles from the national historic site in Independence. Mr. Truman's birth in Lamar is currently being included in interpretive programs at both the Truman Home and the Truman Farm Home as part of the larger Truman story.

 Title II of H.R. 3998 authorizes the Secretary to conduct a special resource study to determine the suitability and feasibility of extending the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail to include additional sites associated with the preparation and return phases of the expedition. These sites are commonly known as the "Eastern Legacy sites" and are located in Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri and Illinois. The study would also determine the methods and means for the protection and interpretation of these sites by federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations. The Department testified on a similar bill, S. 1991, earlier this Congress.

 The Department supports the enactment of Title II. There have been many discussions in recent years between scholars and interested individuals concerning whether the Eastern Legacy sites and routes merit inclusion in the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Arguments against extending the trail have focused on the common historical understanding of where the expedition itself began. Additional concerns include what impact the inclusion of the Eastern Legacy sites would have on those sites and on tourist visitation to the western half of the trail, and whether extending the trail would dilute attention to and importance of the existing trail. The issue of whether this area is suitable and feasible as an administrative unit of the National Trails System has not been addressed. Title II would provide that authority.

 Title III authorizes the Secretary to conduct a special resource study of the sites associated with the "Battle of Matewan" in Matewan, West Virginia to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating these resources as a unit of the National Park System, and to determine the methods and means for protection and interpretation by federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations.

 The Department supports enactment of Title III. The "Battle of Matewan" was a pivotal event in the eventual end of coal company control in the southern Appalachians, and a seminal event in the history of organized labor. The conflict was precipitated by striking coal miners who demanded the company recognize the legitimacy of the United Mine Workers of America. The coal companies retaliated by bringing in armed guards to evict miners from local mines and their families from company housing, sparking an armed confrontation on May 19, 1920 that left ten people dead. Resources related to this period are still extant in the Town of Matewan and its surrounding areas.

 Title IV authorizes the Secretary to conduct a special resource study of the site of the Battle of Camden and the site of Historic Camden in South Carolina to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating these sites as a unit or units of the National Park System, and to determine the methods and means for protection and interpretation by the federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations.

 The Department supports enactment of Title IV. The Battle of Camden, fought on August 16, 1780, was a key battle in the southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The battle decisively ended American hopes of a quick victory in the south. A 2003 reconnaissance study of the Camden battlefield recommended that a Special Resources Study be completed. Historic Camden is a National Park System affiliated area within the City of Camden, which is one of the oldest towns in South Carolina.

 Title V authorizes the Secretary to conduct a special resource study along the route of the Mississippi River from its headwaters in the state of Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico to evaluate the route for potential addition to the National Trails System. The study would also determine the methods and means for the protection and interpretation of the route by federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations. Title V gives the Secretary the authority to conduct the study in accordance with the National Park System General Authorities Act or the National Trails System Act, as appropriate.

 The Department supports the enactment of Title V. The Mississippi River corridor is one of the richest in America's history. It traverses along the edges of 10 states, linking six National Park Service areas and up to 40 federal properties. A special resource study would allow for an analysis of current conditions, river issues and activities, historic issues, current and potential partners, interested state agencies, affected communities, related planning projects, and previous studies, and would help determine the best designation and coordinating role for this important set of resources.

 Title VI authorizes the Secretary to conduct a special resource study to determine the suitability and feasibility of including Fort San Gerónimo in Puerto Rico as part of San Juan National Historic Site. The study would also determine the methods and means for protection and interpretation of the site by federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations.

 The Department supports enactment of Title VI. Fort San Gerónimo is one of four forts surrounding the old, colonial portion of San Juan, Puerto Rico that were built by Spanish troops beginning in 1539. Fort San Gerónimo is the only one of the four forts in the original fortification system that is not included in San Juan National Historic Site.

 Title VII authorizes the Secretary to conduct a special resource study of the Wolf House in Norfork, Arkansas, to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating the house as a unit of the National Park System. The study would also determine the methods and means for the protection and interpretation of the house by federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations. The Department testified on a similar bill, S. 1941, earlier this Congress.

 The Department opposes enactment of Title VII. The Wolf House is a two-story dogtrot structure dating back to 1829 and the oldest territorial courthouse west of the Mississippi River. While the Wolf House is an impressive historical structure, it is not distinguished beyond many other historical log structures in cities all over the United States. Even though the Wolf House has significance for the political history of the state of Arkansas, we believe it may be more suited for inclusion in the State Park system.

 Title VIII authorizes the Secretary conduct a special resource study of the area known as the Rim of the Valley in southern California to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating all or a portion of the corridor as a unit of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The study would also determine the methods and means for the protection and interpretation of the corridor by federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations. Section 802 (b) requires the Secretary to document the process used to develop the existing Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Fire Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, and to document all activity conducted pursuant to the plan designed to protect lives and property from wildfire.

 The Department supports enactment of Title VIII. The proposed study would explore ways to involve a wide range of Federal, state, local, and private entities to protect and interpret important natural and cultural resources, and to provide more access to outdoor recreational opportunities for the diverse urban communities in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. While the Department does not object to the language in Section 802 (b), the documentation that this section requires is already a part of the public record and is not relevant to the Rim of the Valley Corridor Study.

 Title IX authorizes the Secretary to conduct a special resource study and evaluation of the "Ox-Bow Route" of the Butterfield Overland Trail in the states of Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California for potential inclusion in the National Trails System. The study would also determine the methods and means for the protection and interpretation of the corridor by federal, state or local government entities or private or non-profit organizations.

 The Department supports the enactment of Title IX. The Butterfield Overland Mail Route was the scene of biweekly stage coach and mail service between St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee to San Francisco, California between 1858 and 1861. When the category of "national historic trail" was first added to the National Trails System in 1978, the Department of the Interior developed a file of potential trails, including the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, but a formal study was never completed.

 Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or the other members of the subcommittee may have.