S.1084-Parks and Memorials Bills



STATEMENT OF WILLIAM D. SHADDOX, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1084, TO AMEND THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT TO DESIGNATE THE ROUTES OF THE SHAWNEE CATTLE TRAIL, THE OLDEST OF THE MAJOR TEXAS CATTLE TRAILS, FOR STUDY FOR POTENTIAL ADDITION TO THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

OCTOBER 19, 2011  

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 1084, to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the routes of the Shawnee Cattle Trail, the oldest of the major Texas Cattle Trails, for study for potential addition to the National Trails System, and for other purposes.

The Department supports S. 1084, if the bill is amended in accordance with this statement. However, we feel that priority should be given to the 37 previously authorized studies for potential units of the National Park System, potential new National Heritage Areas, and potential additions to the National Trails System and National Wild and Scenic Rivers System that have not yet been transmitted to the Congress.

S. 1084 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of the routes of the Shawnee Trail for consideration for inclusion in the National Trails System. This bill includes a prohibition on considering alternatives that might adversely affect private property rights. It also requires notification of private property owners of land that would be studied for the potential trail prior to the start of the study. The usual cost of this type of study is approximately $200,000 to $350,000.

If the study results in the recommendation to designate a new National Historic Trail, and if Congress enacts that designation, the trail would join the network of scenic and historic trails that has been created since the enactment of the National Trails System Act in 1968. These trails provide for outdoor recreational needs and the enjoyment and appreciation of historic resources, which in turn, promote good health and well-being. They connect us to history and provide an important opportunity for local communities to become involved in a national effort by encouraging public access and citizen involvement.

The Shawnee Trail extended from near Austin, Texas, to Baxter Springs, Kansas. It was first developed by the Osage Indians of Oklahoma in the early 1800s. Known as the Osage Trace, the trail became the principal highway linking the young colony at Austin to the Midwest. As settlers used the trail to immigrate to Texas, the trail became known as the Texas Road. By 1854, the trail was an important cattle route, and cattle drivers called it the Kansas Trail and the East Shawnee Trail. Over 50,000 head of cattle were driven to the Burlington railhead at St. Joseph, Missouri, by way of the Shawnee Trail in 1859.

Over time, however, the Shawnee Trail was considered to be undesirable, due to heavily forested territory along the trail route and the presence of bandits. As the railroads expanded to the West, cattle drivers used the Chisolm and Western Trails, which lie west of the Shawnee Trail.

In 1975, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation completed a study entitled "Old Cattle Trails of the Southwest, a National Scenic Trail Study." In that study, several trails were examined, including the Shawnee Trail. The study determined that the trail did not meet the criteria for establishment as a National Scenic Trail. However, the study was conducted before the category of "National Historic Trails" existed. The Department believes that it would be appropriate to reassess the trail for its potential as a National Historic Trail.

The Department's support for S. 1084 is contingent upon the deletion of sections 3 and 4. Section 3(a) specifies that certain requirements may not be contained in any alternatives considered under the study. This language is unnecessary as trail studies do not include alternatives that would affect private property rights in the manner described in this subsection. Section 3(b) requires the study to include an analysis and documentation regarding whether each alternative proposed has potential or actual impact on private property within or abutting the trail area. This language is unnecessary because any potential impacts are covered through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, to which trail studies are subject.  

Section 4 would require notification prior to conducting the study of all private property owners whose land would be studied. Trail studies, which are conducted by the National Park Service with local partners, are publicized within the affected communities. Study teams work hard to involve all interested parties in trail studies, and to contact all affected property owners through the course of a study. However, it would be almost impossible to locate and contact the owner of every piece of property along hundreds of miles of potential trail routes, and making the effort to do so would substantially increase the cost of the study and the time it would take to complete the study.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee might have.