STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON,
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS,
OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,
CONCERNING S. 2722,
TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CONDUCT
A SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY TO DETERMINE THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY
OF ADDING THE HEART MOUNTAIN RELOCATION CENTER,
IN THE STATE OF WYOMING, AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM.
December 3, 2009
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. 2722, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study to determine the suitability and feasibility of adding the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, in the State of Wyoming, as a unit of the National Park System.
The Department supports S. 2722. However, we feel that priority should be given to the 49 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 River System that have not yet been transmitted to Congress.
S. 2722 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to conduct a special resource study to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating the Heart Mountain Relocation Center as a unit of the National Park System. The study would also consider other alternatives for the preservation, protection and interpretation of the site by federal, State, or local governmental entities, or private and nonprofit organizations. The bill also directs the Secretary to identify any potential impacts to private landowners if the site is designated as a unit of the National Park System and specifies that the Secretary, through the study process, shall consult with interested federal, State, or local governmental entities, federally recognized Indian tribes, private and nonprofit organizations, and owners of private property that may be affected by any designation. Not later than three years after funds are made available, the Secretary is directed to submit the results and recommendations of the study to Congress. We estimate that this study will cost approximately $240,000.
Located in northwest Wyoming, in the Shoshone River Valley, the Heart Mountain Relocation Center is one of 10 relocation centers established by the U.S. military to incarcerate Japanese Americans during World War II. The Center opened on August 11, 1942, and operated for 39 months, closing on November 10, 1945. At its peak, Heart Mountain contained 10,767 Japanese Americans, nearly all of whom were former residents of California, Oregon, and Washington, and two-thirds of whom were United States citizens.
The site tells the story of a group of American citizens whose constitutional rights were abrogated during a time when our nation was at war.Heart Mountain is also directly associated with one of the largest single draft resistance movements in United States history. To protest the confinement of their families, 315 Japanese Americans from all 10 relocation centers were imprisoned for resisting induction into the military. Heart Mountain had the highest rate of resistance with 85 men imprisoned for their resistance to the draft.
The Heart Mountain Relocation Center originally encompassed 21,521 acres. However, the center's core developed area, which included the residential and administrative areas, contained approximately 740 acres.
Jointly managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation, the current Heart Mountain National Historic Landmark contains 124 acres with the remaining parts of the area privately owned.The Bureau of Reclamation owns and administers 74 acres, which includes the site of the original hospital complex and a portion of the administrative complex.The Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation owns 50 acres, which includes the relocation center's military police compound. The Foundation is currently engaged in a significant fundraising campaign to construct an 11,000 square foot Interpretive Learning Center at the site. To date, nearly one-half of the needed funds have been raised.
Although, as a nation, we are not proud of what happened at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center and the other nine detention sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II, such sites allow us to learn from our history and remind us of how far we have come.The designation of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center as a National Historic Landmark has brought increased public recognition and awareness of the site. However, this designation does not guarantee additional safeguards or protection of the site. The special resource study process would allow all interested parties to comment on ways to preserve and allow for visitor enjoyment of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks.I would be happy to answer any questions you or any other members of the subcommittee may have.