To amend the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996 to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into cooperative agreements with any of the management partners of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON, ACTING ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1365 TO AMEND THE OMNIBUS PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1996 TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO ENTER INTO COOPERATIVE AGREEMENTS WITH ANY OF THE MANAGEMENT PARTNERS OF THE BOSTON HARBOR ISLANDS NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
NOVEMBER 8, 2007
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1365, a bill to amend the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996 to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into cooperative agreements with any of the management partners of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.
The Department has concerns with the bill as written. The Department is particularly concerned about the use of cooperative agreements for construction of park facilities by non-Federal partners using appropriated funds. We would like to follow up with written comments on how this bill could be modified to address the needs of the park and its partners while ensuring the appropriate use of Federal funds.
This bill would change the authorizing legislation for the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Section 1029 of Public Law 104-333 authorized the Secretary to enter into cooperative agreements with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or its political subdivisions to implement the management plan for the national recreation area. The law did not authorize cooperative agreements with the non-profit organizations, named within the Act, that administer the Boston Harbor Islands in partnership with the Secretary through the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership (Partnership) established in section (e) of the Act. S. 1365 would explicitly permit the Secretary to enter into cooperative management agreements with the three non-profit organizations named in section (e)(2) of the Act: the Island Alliance, The Trustees of Reservations, and the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. This authority would allow the Secretary to contract with these non-profit organizations for any goods or services needed in the administration of the recreation area.
Authorized in 1996, the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area includes 30 islands within Boston Harbor, all located within 10 miles or less of downtown Boston. Unlike most park units, the National Park Service does not own any of the islands within the boundary of the recreation area.
The recreation area has proven itself a model of collaborative park management. The 13 entities named in the original legislation have endorsed an ambitious management plan and have realized many of its goals. Together they have spent $78.5 million to provide visitor services, rebuild island infrastructure and protect park resources, and $76.6 million to develop new parkland and facilities. Their combined park operating expenditures total $7.5 million annually. Federal dollars total less than one-quarter of park expenditures, with the rest coming from State and local government and private donations as required in the enabling legislation. We believe that we can find a solution that will allow us to work constructively with our partners and we intend to follow up with further suggestions for amending this legislation.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to comment. This concludes my prepared remarks and I will be happy to answer any questions you or other committee members might have.