H.R. 4119

Gulf Islands National Seashore Land Exchange Act of 2016

STATEMENT OF DR. STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, PARTNERSHIPS, AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 4119, TO AUTHORIZE THE EXCHANGE OF CERTAIN LAND LOCATED IN GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE, JACKSON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, AND THE VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

JUNE 15, 2016

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 4119, a bill to authorize the exchange of lands between Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5699, and for other purposes. 

The Department supports H.R. 4119 with technical amendments described later in this statement. 

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5699 owns a piece of property that is bordered on two sides by land owned by the National Park Service (NPS) and managed as part of Gulf Islands National Seashore.  The VFW property is separated from the public road, with the only access across NPS lands.  Under a previous informal agreement with the National Seashore, the VFW created and maintained a one-lane dirt access road across NPS property from the public road to their building.  The VFW also removed vegetation and mowed NPS property adjacent to that access road.  No right-of-way or special use permit was ever issued. 

The VFW approached the National Seashore in 2015 with a proposal to exchange 2.16 acres of undeveloped land, adjacent to NPS land, at the south end of their property for 1.54 acres of NPS land that would connect their property to the public road.  This land exchange would formalize the existing land use, providing the VFW with ownership and permanent access, and providing the National Seashore undeveloped acreage adjacent to other undeveloped, NPS-owned lands.  

H.R. 4119 would authorize this land exchange.  The bill would deem the two properties to be exchanged to be considered equal in value, and would require the VFW to pay for the costs associated with the exchange, including any required costs for environmental compliance.  The bill would also modify the boundary of Gulf Islands National Seashore to reflect the land exchange upon its completion.

Finally, the National Park Service recommends a technical amendment to reference an official NPS map in the legislation, and a technical amendment to clarify the boundary modification.  We would be pleased to provide the Committee with the recommended language and map.  

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.