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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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Parks and Lands Bills: S 1117




STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON, 

DEPUTY DIRECTOR, SUPPORT SERVICES, 

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, 

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, 

SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, 

CONCERNING S. 1117, 

TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR 

TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE IN IMPLEMENTING CULTURAL HERITAGE, 

CONSERVATION, AND RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES 

IN THE CONNECTICUT RIVER WATERSHED OF THE 

STATES OF NEW HAMPSHIRE AND VERMONT.

JULY 15, 2009

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1117, the Upper Connecticut River Partnership Act, which would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide assistance in implementing cultural heritage, conservation and recreational activities in the Connecticut River watershed of the States of New Hampshire and Vermont.

The Department appreciates the efforts of the Connecticut River Joint Commissions and their exemplary work in the upper Connecticut River watershed.Many local, state, regional and federal organizations have worked in partnership with the Commissions for many years to support numerous efforts to improve water quality, promote sustainable tourism, protect unique natural and rural resources, and improve recreational opportunities.

While we support activities that conserve and enhance the cultural, environmental and recreational resources of the upper Connecticut River watershed, the Department cannot support S. 1117.There are existing funding mechanisms within the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and possibly other federal agencies that can foster the type of partnership efforts envisioned in this bill. For example, technical assistance is available through the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, while grants are available through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants Program.

The upper Connecticut River watershed encompasses 41 percent of the state of Vermont's total area and 33 percent of the state of New Hampshire's.It has been the subject of many past studies, including National Park Service (NPS) studies, which document its natural and cultural resources.The upper Connecticut River watershed was recognized by Congress in 1991 as part of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge; the refuge manages the Nulhegan Basin unit and sponsors education centers at the Montshire Museum in Norwich, Vermont as well as in Colebrook, New Hampshire and Turner's Falls, Massachusetts.The watershed also contains units of the National Park System including Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Saint Gaudens National Historic Site, and sections of the Appalachian Trail.The NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program field office in Woodstock, Vermont has projects in the watershed, and the Hydropower Relicensing and Wild & Scenic River programs serve the region from the Northeast Region's office.The Connecticut River was designated an American Heritage River in 1998, and is home to the Connecticut River Scenic Byway, designated by the States of Vermont and New Hampshire in 1999. In 2005, it was also designated as a National Scenic Byway.

The Connecticut River Joint Commissions was formed in 1989, uniting separate commissions that had been formed by the States of Vermont and New Hampshire previously.In 1997, working with 5 bi-state local subcommittees, they produced the Connecticut River Corridor Management Plan.From 1992 to 1999 the NPS provided $1.325 million to the Connecticut River Joint Commissions, as well as technical assistance, for work in the upper Connecticut River watershed.The NPS will continue to support and work with the Joint Commissions.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to comment. This concludes my prepared remarks.I will be happy to answer any questions you or other committee members may have regarding this bill.