To establish the Chiricahua National Park in the state of Arizona as a unit of the National Park System
STATEMENT OF HERBERT C. FROST, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR INTERIOR REGIONS 3, 4 & 5, 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. 6451, A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE CHIRICAHUA NATIONAL PARK IN THE STATE OF ARIZONA AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
February 3, 2022
Chairman 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. 6451, a bill to establish the Chiricahua National Park in the state of Arizona as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes.
The Department supports H.R. 6451 and would like to work with the sponsor on potential clarifying amendments.
H.R. 6451 would redesignate Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona as Chiricahua National Park.
H.R. 6451 would direct the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary), in consultation with Indian Tribes, to ensure the protection of, and access to, traditional cultural and religious sites in Chiricahua National Park, and to temporarily close specific portions of the park to protect traditional cultural and customary uses by members of Indian Tribes. The bill stipulates that these activities would be conducted in accordance with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
H.R. 6451 would allow members of culturally affiliated Indian Tribes to collect plant and mineral resources for non-commercial uses within the park. These activities would be subject to applicable laws and subject to conditions that the Secretary deems necessary to protect the resources and values of the park, with the exception that any quantity limitation in current regulations would not apply. The bill provides the Secretary the authority to limit the quantity of resources collected if it is determined, through consultation with the park’s Tribal Commission, that the limitation is necessary to protect the resources and values of the park.
H.R. 6451 would also direct the Secretary to establish a Tribal Commission for the park, comprised of one representative designated by the governing body of each Indian Tribe with a historical association with the area. The Commission would provide guidance and recommendations on the development and implementation of management plans and policies for the park. The bill would require the Secretary to provide a written explanation to the Commission if they chose not to incorporate a recommendation that the Commission provided in writing.
Finally, H.R. 6451 would withdraw the land located within the boundaries of the National Park from Federal mining and leasing laws, subject to existing rights.
Chiricahua National Monument was established on April 18, 1924, by President Calvin Coolidge by presidential proclamation. The monument is located in Cochise County, approximately 37 miles southeast of Willcox, Arizona. It is located at the intersection of the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts, the southern Rocky Mountains, and the northern Sierra Madre.
Chiricahua National Monument is known as a “Wonderland of Rocks” because of its distinctive pinnacle formations. These formations are the result of powerful volcanic events combined with geologic erosive forces over time creating the rhyolitic rock formations in the monument. The Madrean Sky Island ecosystem of the monument protects a great diversity of flora and fauna as well as critical habitat for threatened, endangered, and endemic species.
Chiricahua National Monument also preserves evidence of diverse human history spanning thousands of years, including prehistoric indigenous peoples, Chiricahua Apaches, Buffalo Soldiers, European American pioneers and ranchers, and the 1930’s Civilian Conservation Corps. The monument’s Faraway Ranch Historic District includes structures, resources, and landscapes associated with the former pioneer homestead and working cattle ranch. Stories and evidence of struggle, perseverance, stewardship, and connection to the land unite the experiences of each of these groups which left a lasting legacy on the land and our country.
Re-designating the monument as Chiricahua National Park is consistent with the nomenclature patterns of the National Park System. Units designated as national parks generally contain a variety of resources and encompass a large land or water area to help provide adequate protection of the resources. With its wealth of both natural and cultural resources over a large land mass of approximately 12,025 acres, it is appropriate to designate this unit as a national park.
The Department would like to work with the sponsor on potential amendments for clarification of how the Commission would function and how this legislation would work relative to some existing regulations and statutes, including those concerning access and closure, hunting, and plant and mineral gathering. We would also like to revise the bill so that if it were to become law, it would clarify the status of the previous park establishment provisions including the Chiricahua National Monument Proclamation.
Chairman Neguse, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.