Fort Monroe National Monument Land Acquisition Act STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS, CONCERNING H.R. 4345, A BILL TO PROVIDE FOR THE ACQUISITION OF NON-FEDERAL LAND FOR INCLUSION IN THE FORT MONROE NATIONAL MONUMENT IN THE STATE OF VIRGINIA. July 13, 2020 Chair Haaland, Ranking Member Young, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 4345, a bill to provide for the acquisition of non-Federal land for inclusion in the Fort Monroe National Monument in the State of Virginia, and for other purposes. The Department does not support H.R. 4345, as this bill would require the National Park Service (NPS) to accept ownership of land offered by the State of Virginia (State) that will have negative financial implications for Fort Monroe National Monument. The NPS and the State are continuing discussions regarding the disposition of the land that is the subject of this bill, and we believe that these negotiations are likely to yield a satisfactory outcome for both the NPS and the State. H.R. 4345 would require that the Secretary of the Interior accept from the State, if offered, the conveyance of a parcel of approximately 44 acres of non-Federal land, including seven buildings and related infrastructure, within the boundary of Fort Monroe National Monument. It would also allow the State to reserve and retain the rights of the State under any leases in existence on the conveyed land. The parcel, also known as Wherry Quarters, is owned by the State, and was not part of the original conveyance from the State to the Federal Government in 2011 prior to the designation of Fort Monroe as a national monument. In 2017, the Fort Monroe Authority (FMA), the authority that manages the Wherry Quarters, offered to convey the parcel—40 acres in fee, four acres in easements—to the NPS at no cost. As part of its offer, the FMA, which has leased multiple buildings on the property, proposed to retain the revenue from those leases to help pay for the operating and maintenance costs of the buildings. The NPS executed a minor boundary adjustment to the National Monument which would allow the NPS to acquire the land, or an interest in the land (such as a conservation easement), but it did not require NPS to take any such action. In June, 2018, after considering the costs associated with rehabilitating and restoring the seven buildings and related infrastructure on the parcel, the NPS decided not to accept fee title to the parcel. Fee ownership of Wherry Quarters would double the number of assets the NPS is currently responsible for at Fort Monroe, and remediation of hazardous materials, alone, at three buildings was estimated to cost $475,000 in 2016. Instead, the NPS sought the acquisition of a conservation easement on the property, which was not agreed to by the State. By requiring the Secretary to accept the Wherry Quarters if offered by the State, H.R. 4345 would compel the Federal government to take ownership of the land entirely on the State’s terms, without due diligence or any assurances as to title or otherwise. The bill’s directive deprives the Federal government the opportunity to negotiate any terms with the State regarding liabilities related to the parcel or assurances related to title of the parcel. In addition, section 3(c) of the H.R. 4345 would allow the State to reserve and retain its rights under any existing leases on the land conveyed to the NPS. This would allow the State to transfer ownership and maintenance responsibility to the Federal government while retaining the right to manage and collect rent from tenants. A mandated land transfer under such terms would not be to the benefit of, or protect the interests of, the United States. This bill would set a negative precedent for passage of similar legislation that would compel the Federal government to accept a conveyance of land on terms set solely by the current owner. Passage of such legislation would represent a significant departure from Congress’s longstanding practice of protecting the interests of the United States in land transfer or conveyance legislation. In February 2020, the NPS and the State, through the FMA, restarted discussions of additional ways to manage the parcel going forward. Since February, several meetings have occurred between the NPS and the FMA, including engagement with subject matter experts, to help gather data on possible alternatives for disposition. The range of alternatives currently being developed considers the NPS mission, FMA objectives, public interest, the long-range planning efforts, and legal and financial sufficiency of all alternatives. We believe that continuing these negotiations with the FMA will result in a mutually beneficial solution that will address the concerns and meet the needs of both parties, making a legislative solution unnecessary. Chair Haaland, this concludes our statement.