STATEMENT OF LENA MCDOWALL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION, 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. 6442 TO AMEND SECTION 101703 OF TITLE 54, UNITED STATES CODE, TO INCLUDE TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS AND QUASI-GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES
June 14, 2022
Chair Neguse, Ranking Member Fulcher, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R.6442, a bill to amend section 101703 of title 54, United States Code, to include Tribal Governments and quasi-governmental entities.
The Department supports H.R. 6442 with amendments.
H.R. 6442 would expand the National Park Service’s (NPS) cooperative management agreements authority established by the National Park Omnibus Management Act of 1998. The existing authority allows for more effective and efficient management of NPS units through the sharing of goods and services with neighboring state and local parks. Under cooperative management agreements, employees of the cooperating agencies can perform important tasks in national parks or neighboring park lands, benefiting both entities. Examples of cooperatively managed services include snow plowing, recycling collection, and tree removal.
H.R. 6442 would amend the cooperative management agreement authority to allow the NPS to enter cooperative management agreements with a broader range of entities, including Tribal governments and quasi-governmental entities. The bill would also remove the requirement that the cooperating agency be adjacent to or near an NPS unit.
The expanded authority provided by H.R. 6442 would allow the NPS to achieve greater efficiency in operations and facilitate the improved operations of its neighbors, cooperating to provide, for example, educational programs, visitor services, infrastructure support, and historic preservation. Additionally, as natural and cultural landscapes extend well beyond park boundaries, the broader geographic scope provided by H.R. 6442 would allow the NPS to improve operational efficiencies and better serve visitors by sharing more goods and services with more agencies. This is particularly important for expanding agreements with Tribal communities that may not be adjacent to the NPS-managed lands to which they have deep cultural connections. H.R. 6442 has the potential to facilitate the NPS’s ability to meet the call of Joint Secretarial Order 3403, issued by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior, which affirmed the Departments’ trust responsibility to Tribes and called for the development of co-stewardship agreements.
The Department would like to work with the bill’s sponsor and the Subcommittee on several amendments to refine the bill. In lieu of extending this authority to “quasi-governmental entities” we recommend identifying the specific types of entities that would be eligible. We also recommend including a provision to clarify authority for the entities engaged in cooperative management to co-locate offices and share facilities. Additionally, we recommend clarifying the authority and mechanism for the exchange of funds for goods and services and including language to permit the NPS to retain reimbursements received.
Chair Neguse, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.