Policy Update Feb 2, 2016

Position on H.R. 482, H.R. 894, H.R. 2880, and H.R. 3371

NPCA submitted the following positions on legislation being considered by the House Committee on Natural Resources during a markup on February 2 and 3, 2016.

H.R. 482: Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2015 – NPCA supports this legislation that would adjust the park boundary from approximately 700 acres to around 2,000 acres, change the name to ‘Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park,’ and authorize a resource study to determine if the park should be further enlarged to consolidate existing public lands, protect hunting and fishing, and provide additional opportunities for education, recreation, and public enjoyment. The Ocmulgee National Monument was authorized by Congress in 1934 to protect a unique Native American cultural landscape, known as the “Old Fields” and consisting of earth mounds and extensive prehistoric archaeology. Excavations in the 1930s documented human presence dating back to the last Ice Age up to 17,000 years ago. Unfortunately, when the park was created during the Great Depression, only a fraction of the Old Fields could be preserved and many significant resources were left unprotected.

The current bill seeks to fulfill the original intent of Congress by preserving a larger portion of the Old Fields area. H.R. 482 will honor the ancestral story of the Muscogee Creek and other southeastern Native peoples, will protect important wildlife and recreational resources, and will promote tourism and boost economic growth. The bill is also supported by the Governor of Georgia. For these reasons, we urge your support and passage of this bill.

H.R. 894: To extend the authorization of the Highlands Conservation Act – The Highlands Conservation Act of 2004 recognized the four-state (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) Highlands as a region of national importance and in need of protection. The Highlands feed the four major rivers of the four-state area that not only provide clean drinking water for more than 15 million people, but also flow through National Park Service sites, including the Delaware River which runs through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Highlands also protects areas along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and is home to hundreds of endangered, threatened, and rare species. NPCA supports this legislation to extend the Highlands Conservation Act until 2021 so it can guard important areas of our Northeast region and critical water quality against commercial and residential development. This potential development could have a negative impact on our national parks and our national forest and aquatic ecosystems in the Highlands region.

H.R. 2880: Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Act of 2015 – Given the pivotal role played by Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights movement, NPCA supports this legislation to re-designate the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site as a National Historical Park.

H.R. 3371: Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Boundary Adjustment Act of 2015 – NPCA supports this legislation to protect additional portions of the Kennesaw Mountain Civil War battlefield. The bill will add approximately eight acres to the park, preserving key sites from General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, including the Wallis House, one of the few original structures remaining from the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and the Union signal station at Harriston Hill.

NPCA opposes section 3(g) as written, regarding “buffer zones,” since the language seeks to override existing National Park Service authorities’ to protect park resources and values. The American people and foreign visitors travel to the battlefield to learn about a pivotal moment in our nation’s history and honor the sacrifices of the fallen. The Park Service must consider how activities on adjacent lands affect park resources and the visitor experience and be able to engage the community in finding reasonable solutions to potentially difficult management challenges.