To authorize the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the Director of the National Park Service to enter into cooperative management agreements for the operation, maintenance, and management of units of the National Park System in the District of Columbia
STATEMENT OF P. DANIEL SMITH, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, EXERCISING THE AUTHORITY OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING H.R. 2897 AND S.1956, BILLS TO AUTHORIZE THE MAYOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE TO ENTER INTO COOPERATIVE MANAGEMENT AGREEMENTS FOR THE OPERATION, MAINTENANCE, AND MANAGEMENT OF UNITS OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
February 14, 2018
Chairman Daines, Ranking Member King, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 2897 and S. 1956, bills to authorize the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the Director of the National Park Service to enter into cooperative management agreements for the operation, maintenance, and management of units of the National Park System in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes.
The Department supports the goal of both H.R. 2897 and S. 1956, which are substantially identical. However, we would like to work with the bill sponsors and the committee to ensure that these bills achieve this goal and would not affect other existing authorities. These bills would clarify that the National Park Service (NPS) and the Mayor of the District of Columbia (District) may enter into cooperative management agreements (CMA) to more efficiently and effectively manage NPS land in the District.
Cooperative management agreement authority, codified at 54 U.S.C. 101703, authorizes the NPS to enter into CMAs to jointly manage land where a unit of the NPS is located adjacent to or near a State or local park area, and cooperative management between the NPS and a State or local government agency will allow for better management of the parks. For example, CMAs may allow for sharing goods and services or authorize employees to work on lands owned by agencies participating in such agreements.
The CMA authority in the statute does not expressly state that the authority applies to the District. For purposes of Title 54 of the U.S. Code, the NPS generally interprets the term “State or local government” to include the District of Columbia, and in our view, the term “State or local government” in Section 101703 does include the District of Columbia. However, we understand that the District has questioned its own authority to enter into binding CMAs with the National Park Service.
In 2012, the NPS, the District, and the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) began a potential partnership through a CMA with the aim of rehabilitating Franklin Park, a federally-owned, NPS-administered square in downtown D.C. Under this partnership, the District would rehabilitate and operate the park, with the NPS retaining all other jurisdiction. The NPS and the District would partner with a new park management entity to provide maintenance and sustained programming. The District has budgeted $13.8 million to complete design work and construction associated with the rehabilitation. The BID will dedicate funding to pay for the management entity.
The Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission have both approved the concept plan for the CMA, and the NPS has completed necessary environmental and historic preservation compliance. Also, the NPS and the District have negotiated the terms of the CMA and a related construction agreement for the rehabilitation and long-term operation of the park. However, the agreement has not been finalized because of the District’s uncertainty about whether the District has the authority to enter into a CMA with the NPS.
H.R. 2897 and S. 1956 seek to assure that the District does have that authority, in order to help expedite the rehabilitation of Franklin Park. We recommend that both bills be revised to state that they are clarifying the District’s authority, rather than that they are granting the District new authority, and to otherwise meet the goals of the legislation. We would be happy to provide suggested language for that purpose.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.