A bill to amend title 54, United States Code, to provide that State law shall apply to the use of motor vehicles on roads within a System unit
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. CALDWELL, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS CONCERNING S. 1527, A BILL TO AMEND TITLE 54, UNITED STATES CODE, TO PROVIDE THAT STATE LAW SHALL APPLY TO THE USE OF MOTOR VEHICLES ON ROADS WITHIN A SYSTEM UNIT.
JUNE 23, 2021
Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1527, a bill to amend Title 54, United States Code, to provide that State law shall apply to the use of motor vehicles on roads within a System unit.
The Department strongly opposes S. 1527.
S. 1527 would provide that the law of the state in which a unit of the National Park System is located would govern the use of motor vehicles (including off-highway vehicles, as defined by each state) on roads within the park unit.
Under current regulations (36 CFR 4.2), the National Park Service adopts state law with respect to the use of motor vehicles but retains the authority to establish federal rules when necessary to meet its management responsibilities. These regulations ensure that where appropriate, motor vehicle use in parks is consistent with state law, but that also park managers are able to determine whether federal rules are necessary to ensure that motor vehicle use on roads will not harm resources or the visitor experience, consistent with the National Park System mission as expressed in the National Park Service Organic Act (54 U.S.C. 100101). This is particularly true regarding the use of off-highway vehicles on roads in remote and undeveloped areas.
In addition, giving states the authority to determine how motor vehicles are used on roads in national park units would lead to less consistent management across the National Park System. When Congress enacted National Park System General Authorities Act Amendments of 1970 (Public Law L. 91-383), it declared that “though distinct in character, [national parks] are united through their interrelated purposes and resources in to one National Park System as cumulative expressions of a single national heritage”. This law emphasized that all of America’s national parks are united under the mission, purpose, and protection of the Organic Act. The authority of the National Park Service to establish rules for the use of motor vehicles on roads within national parks is a key aspect of unified system-wide management.
Chairman King, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or members of the Subcommittee may have.