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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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Lands and Parks Bills: HR 2986




STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON,

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, 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. 2986,

A BILL TO AMEND THE ACT OF MAY 29, 1930,

 COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE CAPPER-CRAMTON ACT,

TO AUTHORIZE A GRANT PROGRAM TO PRESERVE RESOURCES

 IN THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION,

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

APRIL 27, 2010

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 2986, a bill to amend the Act of May 29, 1930 (Chapter 354; 46 Stat.482; commonly known as the Capper-Cramton Act), to authorize a grant program to preserve resources in the National Capital Region. 

Although the Department supports the goal of H.R. 2986 of assisting state and local governments to acquire land to protect open space and natural resources in the National Capital Region, the Department has concerns that H.R. 2986 could duplicate existing programs. The Department also believes that the objectives of H.R. 2986 could be supported through the Administration's America's Great Outdoors Initiative.

H.R. 2986 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide matching grants to state and local governments in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Colo,bia for acquiring land within the Washington metropolitan area for a variety of conservation and recreational purposes. The bill would authorize appropriations of $50 million annually from fiscal year 2010 through fiscal year 2014.

We are sympathetic to the desire of the sponsors of this legislation to find a way to acquire land for resource protection in the National Capital Region. In an area where so many of the Nation's revered natural, cultural, and historic resources are threatened by developmental pressures and where open space is disappearing at a rapid rate, we agree with the need to increase land protection for all the purposes listed in H.R. 2986. However, the same need for protecting resources in the face of development pressures exists in other metropolitan areas of the United States, too.

The Department administers several grant programs already that provide land acquisition assistance to states and localities for many of the same purposes identified in H.R. 2986. They include the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) State Assistance Program and the American Battlefield Protection Program within the National Park Service, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Programs within the Fish & Wildlife Service. These programs provide land acquisition grants across the country, including the areas covered by this bill. These programs also ensure that the land will be used for public purposes in perpetuity, which H.R. 2986 does not provide for. We believe that it would be better to continue to use existing programs to provide land protection assistance to all communities rather than to establish a new program for similar purposes but only available to one metropolitan area.

Metropolitan Washington benefits from having a large amount of land protected and made available for public use by the National Park Service, particularly for an urban/suburban area. In the District, these areas include parks and reservations east of Capitol Hill under the jurisdiction of National-Capitol Parks-East, Rock Creek Park, the White House grounds, and park units and reservations under the jurisdiction of National Mall and Memorial Parks. The George Washington Memorial Parkway spans Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, and the C&O Canal traverses Washington D.C. and several counties in Maryland and West Virginia. The National Capital Region also includes Monocacy National Battlefield and Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Maryland; Prince William Forest Park and Manassas National Battlefield in Prince William County, Virginia; Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Fairfax County, Virginia; and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Jefferson County, West Virginia. To the extent that resource protection in and around thses sites is needed, a more appropriate way to pursue that goal might be to seek funds through the LWCF federal land acquisition program. We note, for exampe, that the Administration's FY 2011 budget calls for $6 million in land acquisition funding for Prince William Forest Park and $640,000 for Catoctin Mountain Park.

The Administration is keenly aware of the need to increase funding for land acquisition, both through federal land acquisition programs and state grants. For FY 2011, the President's budget calls for $106 million for National Park Service land acquisition--a significantly larger amount than has been requested or appropriated for many years. The budget calls for $47.2 million for LWCF state grants, a substantial increase over the FY 2010 enacted level of $37.2 million. The overall FY 2011 request of $619 million is the first step toward the Administration's goal of providing $900 million a year--full funding--for programs funded through the LWCF, and it holds the hope that within a few years we will be able to better address land acquisition needs throughout the United States, including the National Capital Area.

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