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Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
ACTING ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS
OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,
CONCERNING S. 1941,
A BILL TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
TO STUDY THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY
OF DESIGNATING THE WOLF HOUSE, LOCATED IN NORFORK, ARKANSAS,
AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM
November 8, 2007
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. 1941, a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the Wolf House, located in Norfork, Arkansas, as a unit of the National Park System.
The Department opposes S. 1941. While the Wolf House is an impressive historical structure, it is not distinguished beyond that of many other historical log structures in cities all over the United States. It is currently operated by the Wolf House Memorial Foundation, Inc., (Foundation) with the backing of Baxter County, Arkansas. Even though the Wolf House has significance for the political history of the state of Arkansas, we believe it may be more suited for inclusion in the State Park system, either separately or as part of Bull Shoals-White River State Park. Finally, we believe that priority should be given to the 35 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.
S. 1941 would authorize a study of the Wolf House, a two-story dogtrot log structure dating back to 1829. It is a relic of the Arkansas territorial period, the oldest territorial courthouse west of the Mississippi River, and is located on Highway 5 in Norfork, Arkansas. It also would study the Wolf House property, several outbuildings, and portions of several city lots, all located within the city of Norfork. The study would be conducted in accordance with the criteria contained in Section 8(c) of Public Law 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-5(c)). A report that includes the findings, conclusions, and recommendations for future management of the study area would be required to be transmitted by the Secretary to Congress no later thanone year after enactment of this legislation. S. 1941 states that the Wolf House is located in the city of Norfolk; the correct location is the city of Norfork.
The Wolf House became the property of the city of Norfork in the 1930s and was maintained and opened to the public by interested citizens who eventually formed the Foundation. The Wolf House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 13, 1973. In the 1990s, controversies over management of the property led the Foundation to approach the Arkansas State Parks to assume responsibility for the property. They were told that the State Parks could not acquire new properties at the time. In 1999, the Foundation and the city of Norfork quit claimed their ownership of the property to Baxter County. At the same time, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program acquired a historic preservation easement on the property.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared testimony. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or the subcommittee may have.