S. 3551

Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. CALDWELL, 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. 3551, A BILL TO REQUIRE THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CARRY OUT CERTAIN ACTIVITIES TO ENHANCE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR GATEWAY COMMUNITIES, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. 

MAY 11, 2022

Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 3551, a bill to require the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to carry out certain activities to enhance recreational opportunities for gateway communities, and for other purposes.

The Department supports the intent of S. 3551. 

S. 3551 would require the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and the Secretary of the Interior to carry out a pilot program within two years of the date of enactment that would make available to the public data on visitation at: selected Federal land management units; other Federal, State, and local recreation sites near the selected units; and, other lesser known recreation sites near the selected units, in an effort to disperse visitation among recreation sites.  In selecting the Federal land management units to participate in the pilot program, the Secretaries would be directed to solicit feedback from gateway communities. 

The bill would require the Secretaries to select fifteen participating units managed by the Department of the Interior and five participating units managed by the U.S. Forest Service.  Within five years, the Secretaries would be required to expand the program to include 80 additional sites, 50 of which would be managed by the Department of the Interior.  The Secretaries would be authorized to use existing programs or products to carry out the requirements in this section. 

S. 3551 would also direct the Secretaries to collaborate with State and local governments, Tribal governments, housing authorities, applicable trade associations, nonprofit organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to improve the understanding of the economic impacts of visitation on gateway communities and identify community needs, including housing shortages, demands on existing municipal infrastructure, and accommodation and management of sustainable visitation.  The bill further directs the Secretaries to use existing authorities to seek to address the identified community needs by entering into agreements with gateway communities; offering corresponding leases, rights-of-way, or easements; entering into public-private partnerships; or providing financial assistance under existing programs.

The Department of the Interior appreciates the intent of this bill and is broadly supportive of congressional efforts to provide the various Federal land management agencies under its jurisdiction with greater authorities and flexibility to respond to changing needs and evolving challenges in a time of increased visitation to our public lands.  We appreciate the Committee’s work to take action on these issues and would welcome the opportunity to continue working with the bill sponsors and the Committee in a collaborative manner to advance these goals. 

Chairman King, 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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