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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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Lands Bills: HR 1641




STATEMENT OF STEPHEN P. WHITESELL,

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES AND LANDS,

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,

 SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS

ON HR 1641,

A BILL TO AMEND THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT

TO PROVIDE FOR A STUDY OF THE CASCADIA MARINE TRAIL

May 14, 2009

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and present the Department of the Interior view's on H.R. 1641, a bill to amend the National Trails System Act to provide for a study of the Cascadia Marine Trail.

The Department supports H.R. 1641 with one amendment. However, we feel that priority should be given to the 47 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 Congress.

H.R. 1641 would amend Section 5(c) of the National Trails System Act by directing the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to conduct a study of the Cascadia Marine Trail for consideration for inclusion in the National Trails System. As a part of the study, the Secretary shall coordinate with State and local governments and private entities in the preparation of the study of the Cascadia Marine Trail and to look at nearby sites of recreational, scenic, or historic significance that are not connected by the Cascadia Marine Trail. We estimate the cost of this study to be approximately $400,000.

The Cascadia Marine Trail is a non-motorized water route within the Puget Sound in the State of Washington. The trail is approximately 2,500 miles long with 55 small campsites placed on public lands. The trail begins near San Juan Island National Historical Park and passes through many coves and water ways south to Olympia, Washington. The Cascadia Marine Trail has been used for over five thousand years by Native Americans, early explorers and today's wind and hand-propelled watercraft enthusiasts. The Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the continental United States and is home to populations of seals, bald eagles, orca whales and nearly 4 million humans living in the surrounding watershed area.

The Cascadia Marine Trail has a long and significant history in the state of Washington with its designation as a National Recreation Trail in 1994; as a National Millennium Trail in 1999; and as an American Canoe Association Recommended Water Trail in 2005.

A study produced by the National Park Service would not only look at the national significance and eligibility of the trail, but also its feasibility and suitability as a unit of the National Trails System. We envision the Cascadia Marine Trail study to focus on exploring recreational opportunities, defining historical aspects and establishing a working relationship with partners in order to identify land based facilities as required by the bill.

We request one amendment. The bill language states that the NPS may study connections to nearby sites of recreational, scenic or historic significance that are not connected by the Trail. We ask that the last sentence of the bill be amended to read as follows: "In conducting the study, the Secretary shall coordinate with appropriate Federal, State, local, tribal and private entities, and shall determine if nearby sites of recreational, scenic, or historic significance that are currently associated with the Cascadia Marine Trail should be included."

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