TESTIMONY OF MITCHELL BUTLER,
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, FISH, WILDLIFE AND PARKS,
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. 3667, TO AMEND THE WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT
TO DESIGNATE A SEGMENT OF THE MISSISQUOI AND TROUT RIVERS
IN THE STATE OF VERMONT FOR STUDY FOR POTENTIAL ADDITION
TO THE NATIONAL WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS SYSTEM.
APRIL 24, 2008
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 3667, a bill to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate a segment of the Missisquoi and Trout Rivers in the State of Vermont for study for potential addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The Department supports enactment of this legislation with the amendments described in this testimony. However, the Department feels that priority should be given to the 29 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 River System that have not yet been transmitted to the Congress.
H.R. 3667 would direct the Secretary of the Interior to study the segment of the Missisquoi and Trout Rivers from the headwaters of the rivers downstream to the confluence of that segment with the Missisquoi Bay of Lake Champlain in the State of Vermont. A report that describes the results of the study is required to be submitted to Congress not later than three years after the date of enactment of this Act.
Two segments of the Missisquoi River are listed on the Nationwide Rivers Inventory of candidate wild and scenic rivers. The mouth of the river includes the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge which comprises the Missisquoi River Delta and Missisquoi Bay on Lake Champlain. Upper portions of the Missisquoi and Trout Rivers are prized for their scenic beauty, recreational boating and fishing opportunities, and historic and archaeological values.
The Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail parallels much of the upper Missisquoi River, and offers excellent potential for pubic access and recreational opportunities linked to the river and the broader river valley. Portions of the river also serve as the route for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, based on the river's historical significance as a travel route for the Abenaki Indians. Great Falls on the upper Missisquoi is recognized as Vermont's largest undammed falls, and is part of a series of spectacular gorges and falls located on the upper river.
The State of Vermont, Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) has been working extensively with communities of the upper Missisquoi watershed to address river management issues related primarily to agricultural run-off affecting water quality of the river and Missisquoi Bay/Lake Champlain. The forum that has been created through these efforts offers an ideal opportunity for the National Park Service to join the ANR and local communities in a comprehensive study that would add broader natural, recreational, and cultural considerations to the issues already being considered. The ANR and affected communities of the upper Missisquoi have all expressed their support for such a partnership-based study.
The Department notes that several large hydroelectric generating facilities are located on the lower Missisquoi River, making it inappropriate for wild and scenic river consideration. In addition, a segment of the upper Missisquoi River bows north into Canada, and should be excluded from this study effort. Therefore, we recommend H.R. 3667 be amended to direct the study effort to the following river segments:
The Department would also like to work with the committee on several technical amendments to make this bill consistent with other recently enacted wild and scenic river study bills.
This concludes my prepared remarks, Mr. Chairman. I will be happy to answer any questions you or other committee members may have regarding this bill.