Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act STATEMENT OF MICHAEL T. REYNOLDS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON FEDERAL LANDS CONCERNING H.R. 3200, TO REQUIRE THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CARRY OUT CERTAIN ACTIVITIES TO ENHANCE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR GATEWAY COMMUNITIES, TO AMEND THE FEDERAL LANDS RECREATION ENHANCEMENT ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A DIGITAL NATIONAL PARKS AND FEDERAL RECREATIONAL LANDS PASS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. September 19, 2023 Chairman Tiffany, Ranking Member Neguse, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 3200, to require the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to carry out certain activities to enhance recreational opportunities for gateway communities, to amend the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to provide for the establishment of a digital National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, and for other purposes. The Department supports the intent of H.R. 3200, but would like to work with the sponsor and the Committee on certain provisions of the bill. The Department defers to the Department of Agriculture for its views regarding provisions that affect the U.S. Forest Service. Section 3 of H.R. 3200 directs the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to collaborate with State and local governments, Tribal governments, housing authorities, applicable trade associations, nonprofit organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to improve the understanding of the economic impacts of visitation on gateway communities and identify community needs, including housing shortages, demands on existing municipal infrastructure, and accommodation and management of sustainable visitation. The bill further directs the Secretaries to use existing authorities to seek to address the identified community needs by entering into agreements with gateway communities; offering corresponding leases, rights-of-way, or easements; entering into public-private partnerships; or providing financial assistance under existing programs. Section 4, which is the only section of the bill that is specific to the National Park Service, would require superintendents of national parks to conduct public meetings, consult local stakeholders, and provide a 60-day public comment period for any action that would reduce access to a park for a reason not connected to a specific emergency-type incident. Because the National Park Service currently conducts public outreach and solicits public comments for access-related actions at parks such as establishing reservation systems, the Department would like to better understand the purpose of this provision and to work with the sponsor and the Committee to clarify it accordingly. Section 5 would require the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to establish a single visitation data reporting system to report annual visitation data across all the units of Federal recreational lands and on land held in trust for Indian Tribes, if requested by a Tribe. The data would include estimates for multiple categories of recreation activities. This section would also require the establishment of a “Real-time Data Pilot Program” that would make available to the public data on visitation at: selected Federal land management units; other Federal, State, and local recreation sites near the selected units; and other lesser-known recreation sites near the selected units, in an effort to encourage visitation among recreation sites. In selecting the Federal land management units to participate in the pilot program, the Secretaries would be directed to solicit feedback from gateway communities. The pilot program would consist of 15 units managed by land management bureaus of the Department and five by the U.S. Forest Service; within five years, the program is to include 80 additional sites, 50 of which would be managed by the Department’s bureaus. Section 6 of the bill would require the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior, by January 1, 2024, to establish a digital version of the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass that can be stored on a mobile device and make that pass available to pass purchasers. The National Park Service, on behalf of all participating Interagency Pass Program agencies, has been actively working on establishing digital passes at individual sites as an option for visitors since it launched a pilot in the fall/winter of 2016/2017. Digital site-specific passes are currently offered at over 80 NPS locations as well as other agency locations. The Department appreciates the intent of this bill and is broadly supportive of congressional efforts to provide the various Federal land management agencies under its jurisdiction with greater authorities and flexibility to respond, based on the best available data and evidence, to changing needs and evolving challenges in a time of increased visitation to our public lands. We would welcome the opportunity to continue collaborating with the bill sponsors and the Committee to advance these goals. Chairman Tiffany, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or the other members of the Subcommittee have.