Parks and Lands Bills: H.R. 6176



STATEMENT OF DANIEL N. WENK,

DEPUTY DIRECTOR, 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. 6176, TO AUTHORIZE THE EXPANSION

OF THE FORT DAVIS NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE IN FORT DAVIS, TEXAS,

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.


JULY 15, 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. 6176, a bill to authorize the expansion of the Fort Davis National Historic Site in Fort Davis, Texas, and for other purposes. 

 The Department supports H.R 6176. 

 H.R. 6176 would amend Public Law 87-213 to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to acquire, from willing sellers, approximately 55 acres adjacent to Fort Davis National Historic Site (park), and upon acquisition, adjust the park boundary to include these lands within the park and to administer the acquired lands in accordance with all applicable laws.  The bill would also increase the acreage ceiling for the park and repeal the appropriations language found in Public Law 87-213. 

 The lands added to the boundary would be donated, purchased from willing sellers, or a combination.  We estimate the land acquisition costs, including closing and other associated costs, to be $580,000 or less, depending on how much of the land is acquired through donations.  With the exception of boundary identification signs, no additional costs are anticipated to manage or administer the lands proposed for addition. 

 The land that is proposed to be added to Fort Davis National Historic Site by H.R. 6176 consists of three parcels that total approximately 55 acres.  Approximately seven acres are in the process of being donated to the Conservation Fund and significant fundraising efforts are already underway on the part of the Conservation Fund and the Friends of Fort Davis National Historic Site.  The Conservation Fund is scheduled to acquire all three parcels by the end of 2008 and has expressed an interest in transferring them to the National Park Service as quickly as donations or appropriations permit.

 Named for then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Fort Davis National Historic Site is regarded as one of the best preserved forts in the American Southwest.  From 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis was strategically located to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons.  Today, visitors are able to see twenty-four roofed buildings and over 100 ruins and foundations including woodwork, paint, stone work, and adobe architecture.  Fort Davis is also important in understanding the presence of African Americans in the West and in the frontier military because the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry and the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry, the all-black "Buffalo Soldier" regiments established after the Civil War, were stationed at the post.

 The land that is proposed for addition to the park is located on the southwestern boundary of the park on a prominent bluff.  Acquiring this land will ensure that the viewshed for about one half of the park will appear very similar to the background that surrounded the fort in the mid to late-1800s.

 This acquisition will also benefit the adjacent Davis Mountains State Park.  The land proposed to be added to Fort Davis National Historic Site by H.R. 6176 is land that is visible from Davis Mountains State Park's Skyline Drive, one of that park's significant attractions.  Because of this, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department strongly supports the passage of this bill.

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