STATEMENT OF STEPHEN E. WHITESELL, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE, CONCERNING S. 161, TO ESTABLISH PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
May 11, 2011
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 161, a bill to establish Pinnacles National Park in the State of California as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes.
The Department supports the provisions of S. 161 that would redesignate Pinnacles National Monument as Pinnacles National Park, expand the park wilderness by 2,715 acres, and rename the wilderness as the "Hain Wilderness" in honor of an early park proponent.The Department does not support authorization of acquisition of Rock Springs Ranch as provided for in Section 3(g)(2) of the bill.
The bill would add 2,715 acres to the designated wilderness at the monument and rename the Pinnacles Wilderness as the "Hain Wilderness." Congress has recognized wilderness characteristics at Pinnacles by previously designating more than one-half of the monument's 24,000 acres as wilderness.The additional acreage is appropriate for wilderness designation.
Naming the wilderness as the "Hain Wilderness" would commemorate the establishment of Pinnacles National Monument by immigrant homesteaders from Michigan who first arrived at the Pinnacles in 1886.The Hain families were farmers and community pioneers who established the first post office and county road.In 1893, Schuyler Hain conceived the idea of designating the Pinnacles as a public park or even a national park.Mr. Hain successfully championed the establishment of the Pinnacles Forest Reserve in 1906 and Pinnacles National Monument in 1908.The National Park Service (NPS) considers it a high honor to be permanently commemorated in a unit of the national park system and seeks to reserve this honor for cases where there is a compelling justification for such recognition.We believe that there is a compelling justification in this case.
The bill would authorize acquisition of 18,200 acres of land known as the "Rock Springs Ranch Tract."The Rock Springs Ranch Tract contains open space for wildlife habitat conservation and contributes to the rural character of the area.The NPS recently completed a reconnaissance survey and found that the Rock Springs Ranch Tract resources are potentially nationally significant and suitable for inclusion in the national park system.The survey also found, however, that the Rock Springs Ranch Tract does not appear to be a feasible addition to the system based on high costs for land acquisition, resource protection, and staffing and visitor services for this large property that is geographically separated from Pinnacles National Monument.The NPS is exploring opportunities to work with community members, non-profit entities, the Bureau of Land Management, and other partners to create a public-private conservation strategy for the ranch lands.These strategies would maintain open space and traditional working ranch activities with or without direct federal ownership.
If the committee moves this legislation forward and includes the Rock Springs Ranch Tract authorization, we would like to work with the committee on amendments to that section that would identify the lands authorized to be acquired by reference to a map.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement.I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you may have.