Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act
STATEMENT OF DR. STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR CULTURAL RESOURCES, PARTNERSHIPS, AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE, CONCERNING S. 1623, TO ESTABLISH THE MARITIME WASHINGTON NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
JUNE 15, 2016
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1623, a bill to establish the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area in the State of Washington.
The Department supports the enactment of S. 1623, as the proposed Maritime Washington National Heritage Area has been found to meet the National Park Service’s interim criteria for designation as a national heritage area.
However, along with designating any new national heritage areas, the Department recommends that Congress pass national heritage area program legislation. There are currently 49 designated national heritage areas, yet there is no authority in law that guides the designation and administration of these areas. Program legislation that establishes criteria to evaluate potentially qualified National heritage areas and a process for the designation, funding, and administration of these areas would provide a much-needed framework for evaluating proposed national heritage areas. It would offer guidelines for successful planning and management, clarify the roles and responsibilities of all parties, and standardize timeframes and funding for designated areas. The Department also notes that newly-authorized national heritage areas will compete for limited resources in the Heritage Partnership Program. The President’s FY17 Budget proposes $9.4 million for the current 49 areas. The authorization of additional national heritage areas will leave less funding for each individual national heritage area.
The proposed area includes land that is as located within one-quarter mile landward of the shoreline in the counties of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, San Juan, Island, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, Clallam, and Grays Harbor, approximately 3,000 linear miles of a “Salt Water Coast. ” The proposed local coordinating entity for the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area would be the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. A Feasibility Study for a Washington State National Maritime Heritage Area was completed by the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation in April 2010. The National Park Service conducted a review of the study for consistency with the interim National Heritage Area Feasibility Study Guidelines, and with a subsequent revised Statement of Importance and boundary justification submitted March 5, 2012, and found that the area meets these criteria for national heritage area designation. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation was informed of this decision in a letter on June 5, 2012.
The proposed Maritime Washington National Heritage Area stretches from northern ports in Bellingham and Blaine to the protected harbors of Aberdeen and Hoquiam. The landscape tells the stories of a rich Native American civilization, development of the farthest territorial corner of the United States, of gold rushers and shipbuilders, and of a gateway to Alaska, Asia and the seaports of the world.
Living between steep glacier-clad mountain ranges and a temperate saltwater shoreline, native people built a complex culture around canoe routes and salmon cycles. By the late 18th century, the region was being mapped and named by Spanish, English, and Russian explorers in the interest of science and the pursuit of colonial empire. After the 49th parallel was established as the nation’s northern border in 1846, this new corner of the country entered a dramatic period of social, political and military development. The vast conifer forests were easily accessible for timber production, and the coastal geography made possible its transportation to the developing American west. The timber trade and abundant marine resources, especially salmon, of the San Juan de Fuca straight, the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean attracted American, European and Pan-Asian settlers who provided the labor for thriving port economies in Port Angeles, Port Townsend, and Port Gamble.
At the heart of the heritage area is the greater Puget Sound, a system of interconnected marine waterways, harbors, bays and inlets that wet the shores of the San Juan Archipelago and the many waterfront towns, cities, and ports that have grown up here over time. The naval facilities on Puget Sound have built and repaired vessels in our fleet for over a century. Even today the region relies on the country’s largest marine highway system – its famous ferries – for day-to-day transportation.
These stories are represented in the traditional Native American sites, lumber towns, logging mills, salmon processing plants, historic ships, lighthouses, museums and the host of other maritime-related sites, scenes, and traditions that comprise the proposed Maritime Washington National Heritage Area. Under the leadership of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, the heritage area would encourage and support the work of the many organizations committed to the recognition, preservation and continued economic, recreational and educational use of this unique and vital region and its resources.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you or any other members of the subcommittee may have.