Little Manatee Wild and Scenic River Act
STATEMENT OF TOM MEDEMA, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, INTERPRETATION, EDUCATION, AND VOLUNTEERS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS CONCERNING H.R. 4358, A BILL TO AMEND THE WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT TO DESIGNATE SEGMENTS OF THE LITTLE MANATEE RIVER IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA AS A COMPONENT OF THE NATIONAL WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
NOVEMBER 9, 2021
Chairman Neguse, Ranking Member Fulcher, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior’s (Department) views on H.R. 4358, a bill to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate segments of the Little Manatee River as a component of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and for other purposes.
The Department recognizes the importance of protecting free-flowing rivers for the enjoyment of present and future generations. However, because the National Park Service has not studied the segments of the Little Manatee River to be designated by this bill, the Department recommends amending this legislation to authorize the National Park Service to complete a wild and scenic river study on these river segments.
H.R. 4358 would amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate the approximately 50-mile segment beginning at the source in southeastern Hillsborough County, Florida, downstream to the point at which the river enters Tampa Bay, including appropriate tributaries, to be administered by the Secretary of the Interior as a scenic river. The bill also identifies segments of the river that would not be included in the designation.
Most rivers are added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System through federal designation legislation after a study of the river’s eligibility and suitability is completed by one of the four federal agencies responsible for the management of wild and scenic rivers. Congress may authorize a study by amending Section 5(a) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. A study provides the opportunity to evaluate the river’s eligibility, classification, and suitability. Eligibility is an evaluation of whether a candidate river is free-flowing and possesses one or more outstandingly remarkable values. The suitability determination is based on the extent of public support, feasibility of managing the river to protect its values, and consistency with other public uses of the waterway. A study allows for engagement with the public (including landowners), as well as local, State, and tribal governments. The study would be completed in close cooperation with the State of Florida, as appropriate. Upon completion, the Secretary transmits a final study report, including findings of eligibility and suitability and potential classification, to Congress for consideration.
Under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Secretary would be required to complete a Comprehensive River Management Plan three years after designation. If H.R. 4358 is amended to authorize a study, the Comprehensive River Management Plan may be prepared concurrently during the 5(a)-study period. This can be especially beneficial if large areas of nonfederal lands exist within the proposed designation or study area, as in the case of the Little Manatee.
We would appreciate the opportunity to study the river to evaluate the river's eligibility, classification, and suitability for designation including providing an opportunity for public comment. If amended, the Department would like to work with the Committee on language to address the study, including its scope and timing.
Chairman Neguse, this concludes my statement. Thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department’s views on this legislation.