H.R. 4387

Tule Lake National Historic Site Establishment Act of 2016


JUNE 23, 2016

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 4387, to establish the Tule Lake National Historic Site in the State of California, and for other purposes. 

The Department would support H.R. 4387, if amended in accordance with this statement. 

H.R. 4387 would establish the Tule Lake National Historic Site as a stand-alone unit of the National Park System, separating it from the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. It would include portions of the Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark and Camp Tulelake. 

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, including the Tule Lake Unit, was created by a presidential proclamation on December 5, 2008. The monument consists of nine sites in Alaska, California, and Hawaii.  Eight of the nine sites in the monument are World War II battle sites that memorialize battles on American soil and actual engagement with foreign enemies. This is in stark contrast to the purpose of the Tule Lake site, which is to preserve, study, and interpret the history and setting of the incarceration and later segregation of nikkei, first-generation Japanese Americans, at Tule Lake during World War II.  

Since designation, many former detainees have expressed concerns about whether the name of the monument, “World War II Valor in the Pacific,” is appropriate for a site aimed at remembering the grave injustice done to more than 120,000 Japanese Americans nationwide during the war.  Additionally, public input from over 30 public scoping meetings held in western states in 2013 for the park’s general management plan revealed strong public opinion to detach the Tule Lake Unit from World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The rationale expressed that the name is inappropriate, and even offensive, for an internment site to be associated with wartime valor. 

The Tule Lake Segregation Center, which was opened in May 1942, was the largest of the 10 War Relocation Authority camps. More than 29,000 Japanese Americans from western Washington, Oregon, and northern California were interned there.  Its population made up a quarter of the 120,000 people affected by World War II Japanese American internment. Tule Lake also imprisoned the largest number of individuals categorized as disloyal, and was subsequently converted to a maximum-security segregation center.  Due to turmoil and strife, Tule Lake was the last camp to close, on March 28, 1946.

Presently the park includes Camp Tulelake, where there are several historic structures once used to imprison Japanese Americans and detain German and Italian prisoners of war; the Peninsula, an iconic landscape to those who lived there and where detainees tended livestock that supported the self-contained camp; and the Segregation Center, which encompasses the  original segregation center's stockade, the War Relocation Authority motor pool, the post engineer's yard and motor pool, and a small part of the military police compound.  

The Tule Lake Unit is currently administered jointly by the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge) and is managed in accordance with both NPS and USFWS laws and regulations. This bill would not affect existing land rights or alter the site’s current management scheme or operational costs.

Establishing the Tule Lake National Historic Site will enable us to increase focus on understanding the high price paid by Japanese Americans on the home front during World War II.  It would elevate the recognition of this site to be consistent with our other Japanese relocation centers -- Manzanar National Historic Site and Minidoka National Historic Site -- as stand-alone parks in the National Park System.  And, it is in keeping with the public’s and former detainees’ expressed opinions on the matter. 

While the Department supports establishing the Tule Lake National Historic Site as a free-standing unit, we oppose three provisions in H.R. 4387: section 3(d)(4)(C), which contains a special requirement for the park’s general management plan; section 5, which limits the use of the President’s authority under the Antiquities Act; and section 6, which addresses activities outside of park boundaries. We would support H.R. 4387 only if it were amended to delete section 3(d)(4)(C), and sections 5 and 6. 

Section 3(d)(4)(C) requires the National Park Service, in preparing the park’s general management plan, to consult with the City of Tulelake, Modoc County, and the Tulelake Municipal Airport to ensure that the management of the Tule Lake National Historic Site does not negatively impact the operation of the airport.  The purpose of the general management planning process is to ensure that the park has a clearly defined direction for resource preservation and visitor use.  While issues of concern to neighboring communities are normally addressed through this process, it is not within the scope or purpose of a general management plan to ensure that a commercial activity outside of a park is not negatively impacted by the management of a park.  Furthermore, it seems far more likely that the management of an airport in the vicinity of a park could negatively impact the operation of the park, than the other way around.  This is especially true of a historic site that serves as a somber memorial to a tragic and shameful chapter of our nation’s history.

We note that the addition of any special new requirement to the general management plan for Tule Lake National Historic Site would create a problem due to timing.  Normally, a general management plan for a new unit of the National Park System is undertaken after the unit is established.  In this case, the site has had a general management planning process underway since 2013 under its existing designation, the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.  The process included public scoping in the local area and along the West Coast in 2013, where over 550 people attended public meetings.  Dozens more provided written comments.  That plan is in the Department’s final review process and is expected to be released for public comment this year.  Adding a new requirement at this stage could mean reopening the planning process. 

Section 5 provides that the president may not designate lands outside the historic site’s boundaries for inclusion in the historic site without receiving written concurrence from the City of Tulelake and Modoc County at least one year before the designation.  This provision would thus limit the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act to protect resources in the vicinity of the historic site.  The Department opposes this provision for the same reasons that we have opposed other proposals to limit the president’s authority under this act.  The Antiquities Act has been used by presidents of both parties for more than 100 years as an instrument to preserve and protect critical natural, historical, and scientific resources on Federal lands for future generations.  The authority has contributed significantly to the strength of the National Park System and the protection of special qualities of other Federal lands—resources that constitute some of the most important elements of our nation’s heritage.

Section 6 contains language that says that an activity outside the boundary shall not be precluded because it can be heard or seen inside the park boundary.  The Department believes that this language is misleading, as it suggests that the NPS may have authority to preclude activities outside the boundaries, which it does not.  Of even greater concern, however, is that the language could discourage park managers from addressing threats to park resources from external sources.  Even though the NPS does not control what happens outside of its boundaries, park managers have a responsibility under the NPS Organic Act and other laws to work with owners of properties outside of park boundaries to resolve problems that could negatively impact the resources the NPS is responsible for protecting.

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

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