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HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS,
OF THE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,
A BILL TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
TO CONDUCT A SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY TO EVALUATE RESOURCES
IN THE HUDSON RIVER VALLEY IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK
TO DETERMINE THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING THE SITE
AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM,
AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
JANUARY 21, 2010
Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 4003, a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study on natural and cultural resources on certain lands in the Hudson River Valley of New York.
The Department supports enactment of this legislation. However, we feel that priority should be given to the 48 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 the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System that have not yet been transmitted to Congress.
New York's Hudson River Valley is one of this nation's most treasured landscapes, a place of significant historic events and natural beauty. The region has a rich Native American history, as well as a myriad of important historic sites and stories dating from the period of European contact through the modern era of our nation's evolution. It has been the subject of some of our best known literature and art, a birthplace of the environmental movement, and the location of early industrial progress, political discourse, and transportation innovations. It is the home place of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Van Buren, Robert Fulton's invention of the steamboat, and Revolutionary War events including the joint decision of Washington and Rochambeau to march from the Hudson to final victory at Yorktown, Virginia. It was on the shores of the Hudson, too, that Benedict Arnold betrayed the Continental Army offering to surrender West Point and where his contact, British Major John Andre, was arrested near Tarrytown and hung as a spy in Tappan, New York.
The natural beauty of this landscape has been captured forever by the famous Hudson River School of painters including the works of Thomas Cole, Robert Weir, Asher Durand, and Frederic E. Church. Washington Irving, in his classic tale of Rip Van Winkle, wrote, "He saw at a distance the lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic course, with the reflection of a purple cloud, or the sail of a lagging bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands." Naturalist and essayist John Burroughs viewing the Hudson River Valley from its highest point declared, "The works of man dwindle, and the original features of the huge globe come out. Every single object or point is dwarfed; the valley of the Hudson is only a wrinkle in the earth's surface. You discover with a feeling of surprise that the great thing is the earth itself, which stretches away on every hand so far beyond your ken."
The Hudson River Valley is characterized by a mosaic of river corridors, wetlands, forests, agricultural lands, villages, and urban and suburban communities. It has been recognized for its ecological significance where the effects of ocean tides and saltwater intrusion create a transitional ecosystem that provides habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species including rare species such as the Bicknell's sedge and Violet lespedeza, and endangered species such as the Karner blue butterfly and Indiana bat. The Hudson River Valley provides important migration stops for many species of waterfowl, including tens of thousands of geese and ducks, that winter on the river. It also provides essential habitat for anadromous fish species such as the striped bass, as well as other species such as the marsh wren and muskrat, which reside in tidal creeks and other permanently flooded habitats.
Existing units of the National Park System in the Hudson River Valley protect a few of its many historic resources and include the homes of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Van Buren, and Frederick Vanderbilt. Saratoga National Historical Park protects a key site of the American Revolution. Congress recognized that there was more to this nationally distinctive landscape when it established the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area pursuant to Public Law 104-333. The region, too, contains natural and historic sites protected by the State of New York, its local governments and nonprofit organizations. Much of the region, however, remains subject to the pressures of urbanization, resulting in landscape destruction and historic site impact.
H.R. 4003 would provide the opportunity for the National Park Service to work with state and local organizations to determine if other critical natural and historic resources in the region merit consideration by Congress for potential unit designation. More importantly, it provides the potential for a wider public dialog on how best to protect these treasured resources at the local, state, and national levels and through privately initiated conservation initiatives.We anticipate that the study will cost between $350,000 and $400,000 to complete.
We note that the elements included in section 4(b)(2) would be considered in a special resource study and are not necessary to include in the bill language.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony and I would be pleased to answer any questions that members of the subcommittee may have regarding the Department's position on H.R. 4003.