Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
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.
Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS
OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,
UNITED STATES SENATE,
CONCERNING S. 1838,
A BILL TO ESTABLISH A COMMISSION TO COMMEMORATE THE SESQUICENTENNIAL
OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
December 3, 2009
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1838, a bill that would establish a commission to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.
The Department supports the enactment of this legislation subject to addressing some minor amendments discussed in our testimony and the concerns of the Department of Justice, which has advised that it may have constitutional concerns about an appointment provision in the bill and will provide its recommended amendments, if any, at a later date to address these concerns.The Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Government Ethics also welcome the opportunity to work with the Committee to address matters related to the status of the Commission's members and employees for purposes of various laws governing Federal employment. We defer to those agencies for the specifics of their concerns.
S. 1838 would establish a Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration Commission to cooperate with and assist States and national organizations with programs and activities to ensure a suitable national observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.It also authorizes a grant program for the development of programs, projects, and activities on the Civil War that have lasting educational value.
The Civil War was, in the words of Robert Penn Warren, "the great single event of our history." It was the both the greatest disaster that has ever befallen our nation, and also our era of greatest achievement.It was a wrenching conflict that resulted in the loss of 620,000 lives, the liberation of four million African American slaves, and the ratification of three Constitutional amendments that forever changed the face of American democracy. S. 1838 is mindful of this reality as it directs the Commission to recognize "the experiences and points of view of all people affected by the Civil War," and provides for the development of "programs, projects, and activities on the Civil War that have lasting educational value."
As S. 1838 acknowledges, the military aspects of the Civil War are important events to commemorate. It is equally important, however, as we prepare to reflect on the war from the vantage point of a-century-and-a-half later, that we explore the causes of the conflict to understand better why the democratic framework of the country failed to resolve the sectional issues short of war.Likewise, we would be doing a disservice to those who fought and fell, if the Sesquicentennial did not fully examine and reflect upon the consequences of the Civil War including not only the Reconstruction era and its aftermath, but also the subsequent constriction of equal rights for African American citizens, and the ultimate achievement of those civil rights for the descendents of enslaved peoples almost a century later.
As the country approaches the 150th anniversary of the war, the meaning of the Civil War should be explored fully.Its causes and consequences, subjects which Congress directed the National Park Service to address in its programs and materials beginning in 1999, can and must be a major part of the Sesquicentennial. The Sesquicentennial should assume the broadest possible approach to remembering and commemorating the war.With that in mind, and subject to theconcerns of the other federal agencies referenced above, the Department wouldrecommend the following suggestions for strengthening S. 1838 and making its implementation more efficient and effective.
First, the findings mention specific organizations and places important to the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.It is important to remember that the Civil War was a national experience and its Sesquicentennial commemoration should likewise represent a broad spectrum of the nation.For example, the VirginiaCenter for Digital History ( University of Virginia) with its The Valley of the Shadow project could contribute much to our understanding of the war.Other entities that might logically be considered would include the Center for Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.We recommend that other scholarly centers and programs be acknowledged so that the social, political, and economic aspects of the war receive emphasis.
Second, respecting the importance of the appointments to this nationally important commission, we recommend that the bill allow for 180 days instead of 60 days for the selection of the commission members.
Third, the bill envisions a commission that would include twenty-seven members.We believe a commission of this size would significantly impede the timely selection of its members, diminish its ability to work efficiently and effectively, and would be too costly.We recommend a smaller commission, with perhaps fifteen or seventeen members.We would be glad to work with the committee on language for these proposed amendments.
Establishing a commission, subject to modifications as discussed above, to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War as envisioned in S. 1838 would provide the nation an opportunity to reflect upon this momentous event within an environment that would be inclusive and contemplative.The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service stand ready to contribute its resources and expertise to this important commemoration.It would enable all Americans to reflect anew upon the war, its consequences, and its lasting legacies.It would result, we can hope, in greater public insight into the war and promote increased awareness of its remarkable influence upon our society today.
This concludes my prepared testimony, Mr. Chairman.I would be pleased to answer any questions you or the committee might have.