S. 2805

A bill to modify the boundary of Voyageurs National Park in the State of Minnesota

STATEMENT OF STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOUCES, PARTNERSHIPS, AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2805, TO MODIFY THE BOUNDARY OF VOYAGEURS NATIONAL PARK IN THE STATE OF MINNESOTA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

JUNE 15, 2016

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to modify the boundary of Voyageurs National Park (Voyageurs) in the State of Minnesota.

The Department supports S. 2805.  

This bill would allow for the transfer of administrative jurisdiction of lands between the National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  It would also authorize the Secretary of the Interior to acquire lands owned by the State of Minnesota by donation or exchange.

Voyageurs National Park is a 218,200-acre national park located on the northern edge of Minnesota's border, 15 miles east of International Falls, Minnesota.  Fifty-five miles of the park meanders along the Canadian border with the province of Ontario. The park lies in the southern part of the Canadian Shield, representing some of the oldest exposed rock formations in the world. The surrounding waterways once served as the route for the French-Canadian voyageurs. 

The NPS seeks to transfer to the State of Minnesota a 32.79 acre parcel of NPS managed lands which is outside the park boundary.  In exchange, Minnesota will transfer to the NPS, 48.87 acres of State lands within the boundary of the park.  Additionally the NPS would like to acquire five more parcels of land totaling 91 acres owned by the State of Minnesota that are within the boundary of the park. This bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to acquire by donation or exchange any land within or adjacent to the boundary of the park that is owned by the State of Minnesota, or a political subdivision of the State.  There have been incidences of activities on some of these tracts of state-owned land that are inconsistent with park purposes.

Sixty one (61) BLM land tracts encompassing forty-nine (49) acres were not transferred to the National Park Service when Voyageurs National Park was established. Without specific language directing BLM to transfer ownership of its lands to the NPS, the BLM is limited to its existing authority under the Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLMPA).  FLMPA authorizes BLM to transfer management authority over the lands to the National Park Service for no more than a twenty-year period and permanent transfer of the management of these lands requires Congressional action. Transfer of these parcels to the NPS would facilitate ease of management for both agencies and eliminate any future concerns related to ownership, and other administrative issues.  

The cost of managing these boundary revisions and any future acquisitions is minimal as there are no structures on any of the lands.  The park would absorb the minimal cost of producing new maps and brochures and signage. 

The BLM, the State of Minnesota and adjacent land owners support the boundary modifications in this bill.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.