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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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Parks, Trails and Heritage Sites Legislation: S 1017




STATEMENT OF DANIEL N. WENK,

DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

 BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS

OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING S. 1017,

A BILL TO REAUTHORIZE THE CANE RIVER NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA COMMISSION

AND EXPAND THE BOUNDARIES OF THE CANE RIVER NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA

IN THE STATE OF LOUISIANA.

MARCH 17, 2010

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1017, a bill to reauthorize the Cane River National Heritage Area Commission and expand the boundaries of Cane River National Heritage Area in the State of Louisiana.

The Department recommends that the committee defer action on S. 1017 until program legislation is enacted that establishes guidelines and a process for the designation and administration of national heritage areas. The Administration anticipates submitting such a legislative proposal to you in the near future and we recommend that Congress enact national heritage area program legislation this Congress.The Administration's FY 2011 Budget proposes to reduce funding for national heritage areas to focus resources on those park activities that most closely align with its core mission and encourage areas to become self-sufficient, consistent with a FY 2010 Congressional directive.

Cane River National Heritage Area in northwestern Louisiana was established in 1994 as a complementary designation to the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, which was established at the same time.The national heritage area was intended to assist in preservation, ensure cultural sensitivity, and minimize the need for federal land acquisition.The heritage area is known for its historic plantations, Creole architecture, and complex multi-cultural legacy.The area is home to a unique blend of French, Spanish, African, American Indian, Creole, and other cultures.It is an extraordinarily significant area because the cultures that shaped the Cane River region in the 1700s remain there today, which is rare in the United States.

S. 1017 would reauthorize the Cane River National Heritage Area Commission through 2025.Under current law, the commission, which serves as the local coordinating entity for the Cane River National Heritage Area, is scheduled to terminate on August 5, 2010.The commission operates in accordance with the heritage area management plan that was completed in 2003 and approved by both the Governor of Louisiana and the Secretary of the Interior. It is currently overseeing numerous projects and programs including a successful signage and wayfinding program, preservation of National Historic Landmarks and national register properties, development of a military heritage assessment and tour focusing on Civil War sites in preparation for the Civil War sesquicentennial, and teacher workshops on Creole history and culture.

Under S. 1017, the composition of the Cane River National Heritage Area Commission would be modified to reflect current conditions. The heritage area's 1994 enabling legislation identified specific entities for representation on the commission. In some cases, those entities have evolved into other organizations. In addition, in order to allow commission representation of the entire range of cultural and landowner interests, as intended in the original legislation, the number of members would be increased from 19 to 23.

S. 1017 would also expand the boundaries of the Cane River National Heritage Area to include all of Natchitoches Parish west of the Red River. This change would add significant cultural and natural resources, including Spanish Colonial, Native American, U.S. military and westward expansion sites. Among the resources that would be included are original trail ruts of El Camino Real de los Tejas, the Spanish Colonial trade route stretching from Natchitoches to Mexico City that is now a designated national historic trail.

If the committee decides to take further action on S. 1017, there are two issues we would like to call to your attention.One is the length of the existence of the commission.The 1994 authorizing legislation for the heritage area envisioned the transition of management from a Secretarial-appointed commission to another entity within 10-15 years.S. 1017 would allow that transition to be postponed for as long as 15 years, until 2025.Consistent with the idea that national heritage areas should be locally driven, nearly all other national heritage areas that were first established with a federal commission as the managing or coordinating entity have transitioned to a non-federal coordinating entity, usually a non-profit organization. That process is underway at Cane River where a non-profit organization that could serve as the local coordinating entity is currently being developed.

The other issue is the authorization of appropriations. The 1994 enabling legislation authorized unlimited appropriations with no sunset date and no matching fund requirement, for the Cane River National Heritage Area.Congress has held most other national heritage areas to authorized funding of $10 million over 15 years in the initial heritage area designation, and required matching funds from other sources.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks.I would be pleased to answer any questions you or any members of the subcommittee may have.