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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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S. 2158 - National Parks Bills




STATEMENT OF HERBERT FROST, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCE STERWARDSHIP AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2158, A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE FOX-WISCONSIN HERITAGE PARKWAY AS A NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

June 27, 2012

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 2158, a bill to establish the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway National Heritage Area, and for other purposes.

The Department recommends that the committee defer action on S. 2158.  The National Park Service (NPS) has made a preliminary finding that the  feasibility study, conducted by the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, does not demonstrate that the proposed area meets the Service’s national heritage area study interim criteria.  The NPS anticipates completing its final review of the study within one month.

In addition, the Department recommends deferring action on S. 2158 until program legislation is enacted that establishes criteria to evaluate potentially qualified national heritage areas and a process for the designation and administration of these areas.  There are currently 49 designated national heritage areas, yet there is no authority in law that guides the designation and administration of these areas.  Program legislation would provide a much-needed framework for evaluating proposed national heritage areas, offering guidelines for successful planning and management, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all parties, and standardizing timeframes and funding for designated areas. 

S. 2158 would establish the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway National Heritage Area (NHA), with the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, a non-profit organization, as the local coordinating entity.  The legislation includes standard language for national heritage area designation bills regarding the proposed area’s administration, management plan, and funding.  The proposed Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway NHA runs through parts of 15 counties throughout Wisconsin and marks the path of Father Jacques Marquette’s and Louis Joliet’s exploration from the Great Lakes, through Wisconsin, to the Mississippi River, in 1673.  Their voyage eventually led to the establishment of European settlements in the Mississippi River corridor.   The proposed Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway NHA includes approximately 1,400 square miles of land in central and southeastern Wisconsin, including Brown, Calumet, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green Lake, Iowa, Marquette, Outagamie, Richland, Sauk, Waushara, and Winnebago counties.

Prior to beginning any effort to designate an area as a national heritage area, the National Park Service recommends that interested community members or organizations undertake a feasibility study to assess several factors, including: whether the landscape has an assemblage of natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources that, when linked together, tell a nationally important story; whether an organization exists with the financial and organizational capacity to coordinate heritage area activities; and, whether the level of support for designation exists within the region.

The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway organization prepared a feasibility study in 2010.  It did a great deal of research and planning, and conducted extensive civic engagement activities across the area  which  involved numerous organizations, agencies, businesses, and individuals in discussions about the potential heritage area.  Although the National Park Service considers a strong level of community support and a solid organizational framework to be important ingredients for a successful heritage area, the primary consideration for the NPS is whether a proposed area contains an assemblage of natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources that, when linked together, tell a nationally important story.  The preliminary finding of the NPS is that the proposed area does not meet this criteria. 

This concludes my prepared remarks, Mr. Chairman.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or any other members of the Subcommittees may have regarding this bill.