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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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National Parks Bills: S 1449




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 S. 1449,

TO ESTABLISH THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN SCIENCE COLLECTIONS CENTER

TO ASSIST IN PRESERVING THE

ARCHEOLOGICAL, ANTHROPOLOGICAL, PALEONTOLOGICAL, ZOOLOGICAL, AND GEOLOGICAL

ARTIFACTS AND ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTATION

FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION

THROUGH THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN ON-SITE, SECURE COLLECTIONS FACILITY

FOR THE DENVER MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE IN DENVER, COLORADO.

 

NOVEMBER 8, 2007

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1449, a bill to establish the Rocky Mountain Science Collections Center to assist in preserving the archeological, anthropological, paleontological, zoological, and geological artifacts and archival documentation from the Rocky Mountain region through the construction of an on-site, secure collections facility for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, Colorado.

The Department opposes S. 1449.  Our opposition does not detract from the significance and importance of the artifacts and documents currently being housed at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (museum).  The museum is a place of learning and a keeper of important collections that showcase many of the unique features of the Rocky Mountain region.  We encourage the museum to continue to seek other funding and solutions for the preservation and protection of the collections in their care including working with existing programs managed by all of the federal agencies with collections stored at the museum. 

S. 1449 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior, subject to the availability of appropriations, to award as much as $15 million in grant monies, identified as the federal share, to the museum to pay for the cost of constructing and furnishing one or more new facilities.  The bill states the museum would, as a condition of receiving this assistance, match with cash, in-kind donations, or services, any amount provided to the museum under this Act.

We appreciate the interest the museum has in providing the highest level of care to the objects in its collection.  However, we believe the use of limited National Park Service (NPS) appropriations to fund the design, construction, and operation of non-NPS projects of this type is inappropriate. 

Since the mid-1990's, legislation has been passed and signed into law that authorized several hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to be passed through the NPS budget for non-Park System  projects.  Many of these projects involved support for museums and libraries, similar to what is proposed in S. 1449.  Each time this is done, it reduces the availability of NPS's limited amount of discretionary funds to address the needs of our national parks and other important national priorities.  We believe funds are more appropriately directed at this time to reducing the long list of projects and needs that have been identified in our national parks.  

The museum contains more than 1,000,000 artifacts and documents.  Like many western museums, a large proportion of the collection was recovered from federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  This impressive collection assists researchers and anybody interested in finding out more about the West, as do many other similar museums.

However, the financial implications of the bill on national parks and park programs at a time when all federal agencies must work harder to be responsible stewards of the resources of American taxpayers causes us to oppose S. 1449.  The Department is willing to work with all of the involved agencies and the museum to thoroughly assess all possible alternatives for providing the highest level of care to the objects currently housed at the museum, including, if necessary, the transferring of collections to federal repositories.

This completes my formal remarks.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.