Civil War Defenses of Washington National Historical Park Act
STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE , DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR , BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON FEDERAL LANDS, CONCERNING H.R. 5023, T0 DESIGNATE THE CIVIL WAR DEFENSES OF WASHINGTON NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK COMPRISED OF CERTAIN NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM LANDS, AND BY AFFILIATION AND COOPERATIVE AGREEMENTS OTHER HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES, LOCATED IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, VIRGINIA, AND MARYLAND, THAT WERE PART OF THE CIVIL WAR DEFENSES OF WASHINGTON AND RELATED TO THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY CAMPAIGN OF 1864, TO STUDY WAYS IN WHICH THE CIVIL WAR HISTORY OF BOTH THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH CAN BE ASSEMBLED, ARRAYED, AND CONVEYED FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PUBLIC, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
May 17, 2018
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 5023, a bill to designate the Civil War Defenses of Washington National Historical Park comprised of certain National Park System lands, and by affiliation and cooperative agreements, other historically significant resources, located in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland, that were part of the Civil War Defenses of Washington and related to the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, to study ways in which the Civil War history of both the North and South can be assembled, arrayed, and conveyed for the benefit of the public, and for other purposes.
The Department recognizes that the Civil War Defenses of Washington are historic and recreational resources that should be protected and interpreted for the American public. However, the Department does not support H.R. 5023 as the bill would put new financial, time, and capacity constraints on the National Park Service (NPS), require a shift of resources away from existing park units, complicate existing operational protocols, and provide broad authority to acquire Civil War resources that may not be appropriate for the NPS to own and manage. In addition, the NPS would be assuming these new responsibilities at a time when the Administration is focusing resources on addressing the NPS’s $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog and other critical national park needs.
H.R. 5023 would redesignate the Civil War Defenses of Washington as the Civil War Defenses of Washington National Historical Park. The park would include the NPS sites that are currently associated with the Civil War Defenses of Washington. H.R. 5023 would also allow the NPS to affiliate with any site in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland that is associated with the Civil War Defenses of Washington for possible inclusion in the park; it would further provide the NPS with the option to purchase these properties from willing sellers. The bill would also direct a study and report of the history of the Civil War to consider what ways these stories could be conveyed for the benefit of the public.
The Civil War Defenses of Washington are historically significant to the Nation for being instrumental to the protection of Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. At that time, a ring of forts and buttresses encircled the capital city as a safeguard from invasion by confederate troops. It was composed of 68 forts, supported by 93 detached batteries and 20 miles of rifle pits. In record time, the Union built a fort system that made Washington, D.C., the most heavily fortified city in the world.
Today, the NPS manages 19 of these Civil War fort sites in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland. Local governments in Maryland and Virginia manage several more sites and the balance of the original forts have been torn down and lost to other land uses. The NPS manages the existing 19 sites to preserve the historical integrity of the fort remnants, as well as to provide open space, outdoor recreation, and an extensive tree canopy for the benefit of visitors and nearby residents.
Because of the fragmented nature of the remaining Civil War defenses, as well as the multiple public purposes these sites now serve, the NPS has developed a management system that works within its budget and staff capacity. A Civil War Defenses of Washington program manager and two rangers provide education, interpretation, event planning, and program coordination for all 19 NPS sites. Management of the sites and their facilities are split between three National Park units: Rock Creek Park, National Capital Parks - East, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Civil War Defenses of Washington program manager works closely with the three park superintendents, who together serve as a governing body, to develop and execute an annual work plan. The Department believes this management system effectively protects the existing resources while providing a diverse array of public engagement and education of the sites. We note that there has been no study conducted recommending changes in the existing system of administering these resources.
If the Committee moves forward with this legislation, we would like to work with the bill sponsor and the Committee on suggestions for amendments.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes our statement.