S. 1459

Fort Sumter and Fort Mooultrie National Park Act of 2017


July 19, 2017

Chairman Daines, Ranking Member Hirono, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1459, to establish Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Park in the State of South Carolina, and for other purposes.

The Department of the Interior supports this legislation with amendments described later in this statement.    Notably, and as discussed in more detail below, we recommend using the name “Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park.”  

S. 1459 would redesignate Fort Sumter in a way that would provide well deserved recognition of Fort Moultrie.  Although Fort Sumter is the more commonly recognized fort in Charleston Harbor, Fort Moultrie is of great national importance as it is the only site in the National Park System that preserves the history of the Nation’s coastal defense system from 1776 through 1947.  The bill would also address a longstanding administrative need by officially establishing a boundary and management authority for this unit of the National Park System.  The boundary would include not only Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, but also the Sullivan’s Island Life Saving Station Historic District, which is also managed by the National Park Service as part of the park.  These resources are associated with important aspects of American history, including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the development of the United States coastal defense system from 1776 to 1947.

Fort Moultrie interprets coastal fortifications and defense from 1776 to 1947, focusing on the national response to continuing changes in international military technology and the simultaneous growth of the United States’ place in world affairs and its concepts of national defense.

Located adjacent to historic Fort Moultrie, Battery Jasper, constructed circa 1899, is part of the Endicott Period System of national coastal defense.  Located adjacent to Battery Jasper, Construction 230, constructed circa 1944, is an underground bunker from the World War II era.

Fort Sumter was designated as a national monument and transferred to the Secretary of the Interior from the Secretary of the Army in 1948, by an act of Congress.  Authority to administer the site as part of the National Park System was provided in the same law.  In contrast, Fort Moultrie, Battery Jasper, Construction 230 (a WWII bunker currently used as a maintenance facility), and the U.S. Coast Guard Life Saving Station were conveyed from the State of South Carolina to the Federal government in 1961 under authority of the 1935 Historic Sites Act,  but no boundaries were established and no directives were given to the National Park Service for managing it.  At the time of the conveyance, the Secretary of the Interior did not issue the proper papers to formally include this property within the park boundary.  These three structures are listed as contributing features of a National Register Property.  As a result, the National Park Service has been managing Fort Moultrie without clear management authority or established boundaries for nearly 60 years.  

Although we would welcome including “Fort Moultrie” in the name of the site, the National Park Service strives to provide consistency in the naming of park units.  To better align with the standard nomenclature for units of the National Park System, we recommend that Congress redesignate the unit as a national historical park rather than a national park.  Generally, a national park contains a variety of resources and encompasses large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources.  

The existing 59 designated national parks protect, at a minimum, thousands of acres each and some span millions of acres.  At approximately 235 acres, we believe Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie are too small and limited in the range of resources the sites protect and interpret to be called a national park.  We believe that a more fitting name for the park unit would be “Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park.”  

Additionally, the National Park Service would support the inclusion of language providing the Secretary of the Interior with land acquisition authority within the redesignated boundary of the park.  Such authority to acquire lands is common in other national park service units and provides willing sellers of non-federal land within the boundary the opportunity to sell or donate their lands to the federal government.  Such an arrangement benefits both the private landowner, who may be interested in selling or donating the land for financial reasons or an interest in furthering the park’s ability to tell its story to the public, as well as the park and its visitors.  Although the owners of private land within the park’s boundary may not have any interest in selling their land at the current time, this authority provides them with the flexibility to make that decision in the future if circumstances change.  Before the NPS would seek to acquire any property, whether by purchase, donation, or exchange, we would take into consideration the condition of any structures on the property that would add to the NPS's deferred maintenance backlog. Any funding to purchase land would still be subject to future appropriations from Congress. 

Finally, we would request a technical edit to the map reference, in order to substitute a more up-to-date legislative map.  We would be happy to work with the sponsor and the committee to develop amendments to address these points.

Chairman Daines, this concludes my statement.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have. 

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