Wilderness, Parks, and Timber Contracts Bills: HR 3804












NOVEMBER 5, 2009

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 3804, a bill to make technical corrections to various Acts affecting the National Park Service, to extend, amend, or establish certain National Park Service authorities, and for other purposes.

The Department supports H.R. 3804, which addresses several issues that are important to the National Park Service (NPS).We will discuss each of the portions of the bill separately in this testimony.

H.R. 3804 would authorize ten year extensions to the National Park System Advisory Board and the National Park Service Concessions Management Advisory Board.The bill also would standardize the penalties for violations of NPS regulations at military parks and national historic sites and would raise the ceiling for annual appropriations used to fund the Volunteers in the Parks Program.The bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to enter into an agreement with nonprofit organizations or other entities that manage or administer historic sites at Pearl Harbor and to allow the sale of tickets to those historic sites by NPS staff or employees of the organizations that administer the historic sites.In addition, H.R. 3804 would authorize a land exchange to address a long-standing access issue on the George Washington Memorial Parkway and would amend the D.C. Snow Removal Act of 1922 to clarify which federal agency is responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks and crosswalks in front of or around public buildings in the District of Columbia.The Martin Luther King, Junior, National Historic Site would be redesignated as a National Historical Park and the boundary of the Lava Beds National Monument Wilderness would be adjusted.Finally, the bill would make technical corrections to laws for a national seashore, wild and scenic rivers, and national heritage areas.

Section 101:National Park System Advisory Board

H.R. 3804 would extend the authorization for the National Park System Advisory Board to January 1, 2020.The Advisory Board was first authorized in 1935 under the Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act.The Board advises the Director of the National Park Service (Director) and the Secretary on matters relating to the NPS, the National Park System, and programs administered by the NPS, including the administration of the Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act; the designation of national historic landmarks and national natural landmarks; and the national historic significance of proposed national historic trails.

The Advisory Board meets approximately twice yearly, at the call of the Director or the Director's designee. The NPS provides support for the Advisory Board and members are appointed on a staggered-term basis for terms not to exceed 4 years. The Advisory Board has been a valuable partner of the NPS, and we look forward to continuing this partnership in the coming years.After several one-year authorizations, the NPS supports the longer time extension for this important body.

Section 102:National Park Service Concessions Management Advisory Board

H.R. 3804 would also extend the authorization for the NPS Concession Management Advisory Board for ten years, to December 31, 2019.The Concession Management Advisory Board was established on November 13, 1998 by Public Law 105-391, and is composed of seven members appointed by the Secretary. Advisory Board members must be United States citizens, and not employed by the Federal Government. Members are appointed on a staggered basis for terms not to exceed 4 years.

The Advisory Board's purpose is to advise the Secretary and the NPS on matters relating to the effective management of concessions in the National Park System.The Board helps make recommendations on ways to make the concession programs more cost effective, mitigate impacts of concession operations on park resources, improve visitor services, and allocate concession fees.

Board members are experts in hospitality, tourism, accounting, outfitting and guide industries, parks concession management, traditional arts and crafts, and parks and recreation programs, and are selected for their expertise and area of professional skills in concessions management and oversight.The combination of the expert advice and the public forum that the Board offers provides a practical approach to consider contentious concession management topics and issues

Historically, the Board has held two to three public meetings annually.This board has also been continued by a one-year authorization and the NPS supports the longer term extension of this important body.

Section 103:Uniform Penalties

Section 103 of H.R. 3804 addresses a lack of uniformity in the penalties for violating regulations throughout the National Park System.Having different penalties for violation of the same NPS regulation, in parks that originated as military parks or national historic sites is confusing and inappropriate. The NPS has recognized that the framework for penalties for violating regulations in these military parks and historic sites was derived from unique historic statutes enacted over 60 years ago.This disparity in penalties may undermine effective and uniform law enforcement and criminal prosecution for violations on parkland.

H.R. 3804 would provide the necessary legislative authority to provide uniform, consistent penalties for NPS regulations, including in parks that originated as military parks or national historic sites.This would be accomplished by increasing the penalties for these sites from the current penalty of only a fine or a fine and/or incarceration up to three months to a fine and/or imprisonment up to six months as provided under the NPS Organic Act, 16 U.S.C. § 3, and the long-standing fine-enhancement provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3571.

Section 104:Volunteers in the Parks

H.R. 3804 would raise the ceiling for funding for the Volunteers in the Parks (VIP) program from $3.5 million to $10 million annually.In 1970 the VIP program started with a few hundred volunteers. Today, there are more than 175,000 VIPs helping to preserve and protect our natural and cultural resources. More than 370 NPS areas currently use VIPs. Volunteers range in age from young children to senior citizens. They come from all over the United States, and the world, bringing different backgrounds, skills, and talents that enrich our park programs.

The increase in the VIP ceiling proposed in H.R. 3804 is needed to more accurately reflect the resources that are being devoted to this popular program.Although the enacted levels for the VIP program were $2.794 million in FY 2009 and $2.797 million in FY 2010, expenditures for the program were $5.021 million in FY 2008 and $4.753 million (with a few expenditure reports outstanding) for FY 2009 – the two most recent years for which data is available.With the President's and the Secretary of the Interior's emphasis on the importance of volunteerism, the increased ceiling would allow the NPS to recognize the benefits offered by our many volunteers each year.

Title II:Pearl Harbor Ticketing

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument includes 11 acres at Halawa Landing at Pearl Harbor and the USS Oklahoma Memorial across the harbor on Ford Island.The NPS and the U.S. Navy are developing an overarching Memorandum of Understanding to address cooperative management at Pearl Harbor.

The Pearl Harbor Naval Base is a secure site.Halawa Landing sits outside the main gates of the Base, but still within the area for enhanced security, and visitors arrive by tour bus, public transit or private car.Access to Ford Island is permitted only by shuttle bus.

In addition to the NPS's USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, there are two other Pearl Harbor partner-operated historic sites that are accessed through the NPS facility:the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum.Visitors surrender all bags and luggage before entering the NPS facility to visit NPS sites or the partner-operated sites.Currently, the other partner at Halawa Landing, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, requires visitors to store their bags in a separate secure facility.

The NPS is in the midst of a $50 million replacement of the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, at Halawa Landing.When completed, this new facility will include space for a ticket counter for the Pearl Harbor historic sites partners to sell their tickets, which will be adjacent to the NPS information and ticketing counter.

Free admission to the USS Arizona Memorial is required by law.If H.R. 3804 is enacted, visitors would approach the NPS ticket booth at the entrance to the Visitor Center and receive a free, timed ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial.At the same time, visitors would be able to purchase all their tickets to other Pearl Harbor historic sites and plan their visit.H.R. 3804 would authorize NPS to work with our partners on a joint ticketing operation, and recover a reasonable fee to cover any administrative costs associated with such operation.

Our partners at Pearl Harbor enhance visitor understanding and increase appreciation for World War II Pacific Theatre history.Entrance fees to Pearl Harbor historic sites are the partners' critical source of revenue for operations and allowing the sale of their tickets at the NPS visitor center supports the NPS's broader mission to tell the story of the Pacific Theater.Joint ticket sales would be the next step in enhancing the visitor experience and our partnership.For example, visitors waiting for the launch to the USS Arizona Memorial would have additional time to explore the USS Bowfin Museum, or start their tours on Ford Island, returning to board their launch to the USS Arizona Memorial.

Section 121 ofPublic Law 111-88 – The Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010, enacted on October 30, 2009, provides the same authority contained in Title II of H.R. 3804 regarding Pearl Harbor Ticketing for fiscal year 2010.However, the permanent authority provided by H.R. 3804 remains necessary.

Section 301:George Washington Memorial Parkway

Section 301 of H.R. 3804 would address a long-standing access issue on the George Washington Memorial Parkway.The Claude Moore Colonial Farm (Farm) is a 68.5-acre working colonial farm, part of the 235-acre Langley Tract property that was transferred to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in 1971 to provide public recreation and open space.The greenhouses, administrative offices, staff parking, a storage area for Farm equipment, and animal pens are located in the administration and maintenance area of the Farm.Colonial Farm Road forms the eastern boundary between the Langley Tract and the Farm and provides the main public access to the Farm from Georgetown Pike.In addition to providing Farm access, Colonial Farm Road serves as an entrance road to the Federal Highway Administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (Research Center) and the George Bush Center for Intelligence (CIA).

The three federal agencies have discussed concerns about crossing property lines, the need to have uninterrupted access to their properties, and the need to improve security (visibility) near perimeter fencing of the Research Center.They have identified properties suitable for exchange that would provide access to the Farm's administrative and maintenance area and the means to improve security outside the fencing of the Research Center and CIA acceptable to NPS standards.

H.R. 3804 would authorize the transfer of administrative jurisdiction of land between the NPS and the Federal Highway Administration to provide the NPS with a separate access road in the administration and maintenance area for the Farm that will not go through the Research Center.In exchange, NPS would provide the Federal Highway Administration with a visible buffer on parkland outside the perimeter fence of the Research Center.NPS would also place use restrictions on another parcel of land to improve security of the Research Center.

Section 302:DC Snow Removal

Section 302 of H.R. 3804 addresses snow removal within the District of Columbia.The Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army was originally given responsibility for snow removal on sidewalks in front of all buildings owned or leased by the United States (except the Capitol grounds and the Library of Congress) and from all sidewalks or crosswalks used as public thoroughfares in and around all public squares, reservations, or open spaces within the fire limits of the District of Columbia.In 1925, the duties of the Chief of Engineers were transferred to the Director of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital, and subsequently to the NPS.

The NPS has not removed snow from the sidewalks of non-NPS buildings and lots for more than thirty years.Instead, the respective federal agency has taken responsibility for snow removal on public thoroughfares or on sidewalks or crosswalks in front of buildings that are owned or leased by the United States and are under such agency's administrative jurisdiction.The General Services Administration (GSA), which operates, protects, and maintains most government-owned and leased buildings and grounds in the District of Columbia, has regulations at 41 CFR Part 102-74 providing that GSA maintains and repairs such sidewalks and that snow removal is part of its complete facility maintenance schedule.The D.C. Snow Removal Act of 1922 was never amended, however, to reflect the effective change in responsibility.

H.R. 3804 would amend the D.C. Snow Removal Act of 1922 to clarify that each federal agency would be responsible for property owned by the United States and under that agency's administrative jurisdiction, including snow removal.This would make the law consistent with modern snow removal practices and would change the time period for snow removal to reflect the realities of street snow removal where plows usually clear the streets by pushing snow onto the adjacent sidewalks, and where additional time is necessary to remove it.The legislation also would allow for the duty of a federal agency to be delegated to another governmental or non-governmental entity through a lease, contract, or other comparable arrangement.If two federal agencies have overlapping responsibility for the same sidewalk, the bill would provide the authority for the agencies to enter into an arrangement assigning responsibility.

Section 303:Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park

H.R. 3804 would redesignate the Martin Luther King, Junior, National Historic Site as a National Historical Park to reflect its multiple properties and broad themes, and provide a new map reference for the park, which reflects the proposed name change and indicates a land exchange that occurred in 2004.

Section 304:Lava Beds National Wilderness Boundary Adjustment

H.R. 3804 would correct errors in the 1972 law that designated wilderness at Lava Beds National Monument.Through the substitution of a new wilderness boundary map, certain improved areas would be excluded from wilderness and other areas that are appropriate for designation would be included.

Adding and subtracting parts of the two wilderness areas would produce a net increase of 399 acres in the actual amount of designated wilderness.Although the 1972 law provides for about 10,000 acres of wilderness in the Black Lava Flow area and about 18,460 in the Schonchin Lava Flow area, a 1993 survey that used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and a map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey found that the actual acreage in the two wilderness areas is 10,125 and 17,936 respectively. The proposed legislation would provide for about 10,431 acres within the Black Lava Flow area and about 18,029 acres in the Schonchin Lava Flow area, and the map referenced in H.R. 3804 depicts two wilderness areas with the same amount of acreage as those two figures indicate.Added together, the acreage of the two wilderness areas would be the same total amount (28,460) that Congress intended to designate in the 1972 law, only distributed differently between the two areas and measured more accurately.

This proposal is consistent with Lava Bed National Monument's 1996 General Management Plan and 2006 Wilderness Stewardship Plan.The only costs anticipated from this proposal would be for signs and maps, which would be negligible.

Other Provisions

Finally, Title IV of H.R. 3804 would make technical corrections to several acts that involve a national seashore, wild and scenic rivers, and national heritage areas addressing a number of small issues for various parks that have been needed for a long time.We look forward to working with you for their enactment.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement.I would be happy to answer any questions that you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

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