Lands and Parks Bills: HR 3444



STATEMENT OF STEVE WHITESELL,

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES AND LANDS,

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,

SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS,

 CONCERNING H.R. 3444,

TO ESTABLISH PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM,

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

NOVEMBER 17, 2009

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 3444, a bill to establish Pinnacles National Park in the State of California as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes.

The Department supports Section 4 of H.R. 3444, which would designate and rename additional wilderness areas within Pinnacles National Park with technical amendments. However, we recommend deferring action on Section 3, which would redesignate Pinnacles National Monument as "Pinnacles National Park".

Section 4 would add 2,905 acres to the designated wilderness at the monument and rename the Pinnacles Wilderness as "Hain Wilderness." Congress has recognized wilderness characteristics at Pinnacles by previously designating more than one-half of the monument's 24,000 acres as wilderness.The additional acreage is appropriate for wilderness designation.

Naming the wilderness as "Hain Wilderness" would commemorate the establishment of Pinnacles National Monument by immigrant homesteaders from Michigan who first arrived at the Pinnacles in 1886.The Hain families were farmers and community pioneers who established the first post office and county road.In 1893, Schuyler Hain conceived the idea of designating the Pinnacles a public park or even a national park.Mr. Hain successfully championed the establishment of the Pinnacles Forest Reserve in 1906 and Pinnacles National Monument in 1908.The National Park Service considers it a high honor to be permanently commemorated in a unit of the national park system and seeks to reserve this honor for cases where there is a compelling justification for such recognition.We believe that there is a compelling justification in this case.

Section 3 would reestablish Pinnacles National Monument as Pinnacles National Park.Pinnacles National Monument encompasses 60 million years of geological and plate tectonic history, 4,000 years of California heritage from prehistoric to historic, and the range of the condor dating from the Pleistocene Epoch.The monument has truly extraordinary natural resources and has played a crucial role in the reintroduction of the California condor to its traditional range in California.However, under longstanding practice, the term "national park" has generally been reserved for units that contain a variety of resources and encompasses large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources.Pinnacles National Monument does not include the full range of resources usually found in national parks.

Additionally, the Department has been reviewing the recommendations recently made by the National Parks Second Century Commission.One of the recommendations is to substantially reduce the more than two dozen different park titles currently used for units of the National Park System.In response to this recommendation, a Departmental task force will be looking at a comprehensive plan for renaming many of our park units.This effort will be particularly important for determining which units are appropriate candidates for the title "national park," which is sought by supporters of some other units throughout the country that are not currently designated as such.Under a nomenclature with fewer titles, it is possible that Pinnacles and other units with similar characteristics should have "national park" in their title. However, until the task force's work has been completed, we request that the committee not act on legislation to rename any units as national parks.

If the committee decides to act on H.R. 3444, we suggested the following technical amendments:

  • On page 4, line 16, strike "are" and insert "shall consist of those areas".
  • On page 6, lines 6 and 7, delete the map reference and substitute a new map reference to a map produced by the National Park Service (to be provided).

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement.I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you may have.