H.R. 3640 - Parks and Lands Bills



STATEMENT OF VICTOR KNOX, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 3640, to AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO ACQUIRE NOT MORE THAN 18 ACRES OF LAND AND INTERESTS IN LAND IN MARIPOSA, CALIFORNIA, and FOR other purposes

June 28, 2012

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. 3640, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to acquire not more than 18 acres of land and interests in land in Mariposa, California, and for other purposes.

The Department supports H.R. 3640.

H.R. 3640 would authorize acquisition of land in Mariposa, California.It would also authorize the Secretary to partner with Mariposa County for land use planning related to acquired land and interests.The use of eminent domain would be prohibited.Acquired lands would be administered as part of Yosemite National Park.

Consistent with Yosemite National Park's planning documents, including the park's General Management Plan, the National Park Service has been interested in providing visitor and administrative facilities in gateway communities that border Yosemite National Park, and reduce the need to provide government-owned housing and offices inside the park, for more than 30 years.Acquiring land as described in this bill would greatly help the bureau meet these objectives. Providing visitor and administrative facilities at this location in Mariposa would enhance the visitor's experience by providing orientation and pre-visit services at a satellite visitor contact station. It will also promote stewardship of resources through educational and interpretive services prior to park entry. Visitor services in this location would encourage regional economic development and transportation partnerships, which are important benefits for the National Park Service. Permanent visitor, transportation, and support facilities in Mariposa would also provide critical support for Yosemite National Park and address other long-term needs and goals.

Options to expand the park's El Portal Administrative Site are infeasible, and the site cannot accommodate future growth.Therefore, Yosemite National Park rents office space in Mariposa, California, to accommodate certain key administrative functions. Park facilities located in gateway communities have been identified in a number of planning documents, including the park's General Management Plan, as an effective way to reduce the need for office space and to realize operational savings in Yosemite Valley. Relocating these positions and functions to a gateway community also helps to reduce traffic congestion and improve the quality of life for employees, some of whom had previously commuted over two hours a day for positions that can be performed remotely. Now, staff in over forty positions and functions work from Mariposa, and this transition has allowed the park to eliminate rented office trailers, while helping it to recruit and retain employees.Ideally, the park would like to provide work-space for 100-150 employees in Mariposa and this cannot be done with existing facilities.

Administrative offices located in Mariposa support a continuity of services during emergencies such as rockfalls, major snow storms, and wildland fires.These types of events have previously disrupted core park functions because employees could not safely travel to their offices inside Yosemite. Finally, establishing facilities in Mariposa reduces the demand on administrative space in Yosemite Valley and at the El Portal Administrative Site, where building and accommodating employees comes at a high operational cost to the National Park Service.The park has explored leasing additional space; however, no adequate facilities are currently available in Mariposa to meet the park's current and future needs.

The Yosemite Conservancy, a fundraising group for Yosemite National Park, has purchased 11 acres for potential acquisition by the National Park Service. This land could be donated or purchased, with the passage of this bill, to support visitor information facilities, an administrative worksite, museum storage, and other possible purposes, that would benefit visitors, staff, and the partnership of Yosemite National Park, Mariposa County, and the State of California. In our view, this legislation would help to strengthen the relationship between the National Park Service and the gateway community of Mariposa, and could help to spur regional economic Development.

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