NPCA submitted the following positions on several potential amendments to and provisions in S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act, ahead of consideration on the Senate floor.
Provisions in the Underlying bill:
NPCA supports Title V of the bill that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), and would establish a separate fund for addressing the National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog. LWCF is a critical program that addresses the threat of incompatible development within or adjacent to National Park System sites, while the HPF supports critical preservation efforts to protect significant historic sites throughout the country. Permanent reauthorization of these important conservation programs is essential to the future of our national parks. The $11.9 billion National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog includes crumbling roads and bridges, visitor centers, trails, water systems and more; the fund established by Title V is an important step in addressing this pressing need.
We do not support the bill’s proposed changes to the Federal Power Act in Sections 3001(c ) and 3001 (g)—some changes could allow harm to fish, wildlife, public lands, and Indian reservations and would transfer expenses for potential damage to fishing interests, recreationalists, and the general public. The bill also includes provisions that may limit the ability of the National Park Service to reestablish fish passage at current dams or restore fisheries in other parks and rivers within their jurisdiction. Further, Sec. 3001(c ) would amend the Federal Power Act by eliminating the Secretary’s authority to potentially protect resources within the National Park System. Changes to the Federal Power Act and loss of this authority would have enormous consequences for fisheries from coast to coast and rivers on tribal and public land.
Lankford #3210 – Maintenance Backlog Limit on LWCF Spending: We oppose this amendment that would undermine the integrity of the federal land acquisition process. The amendment seeks to limit the level of acquisition funding when there are maintenance backlogs on federal land, and it would mandate duplicative and unnecessary reporting requirements for certain acquisitions. The amendment burdens LWCF without actually doing anything to address deferred maintenance backlogs. This damaging approach is in complete contrast to the helpful and carefully crafted approach in Title V of the underlying bill that recognizes the importance of addressing both land acquisition needs and deferred maintenance needs.
Murkowski/Cantwell #3234 – Title VI – Natural Resources: We support the amendment and have positions on specific sections below:
- Section #6101 – Refund of Funds Used by States to Operate National Parks during Shutdown: We conditionally support this section that seeks to reimburse those states that donated funds in order to re-open several national parks during the October 2013 government shutdown. Although those states signed donation agreements to re-open national parks that clearly stated there was no guarantee they would be reimbursed, they judged that risk to be worth taking in light of the enormous economic importance of national parks to state and local economies.
NPCA feels strongly that the funding of national parks is first and foremost a federal responsibility. Thus, we find it appropriate that the states in question be reimbursed for the expenses they incurred. Because this section requires reimbursement from the National Park Service’s operating account, it could require cutbacks from budgeted expenses for the fiscal year during which states are repaid. Therefore, we encourage Congress to seek sources of reimbursement that do not result in an effective cut to the National Park Service’s operating budget for the fiscal year in which the states are reimbursed. We hope that advocates for this measure will also advocate for additional resources for our national parks in FY 2017.
- Section #6102 – Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook Recreational Rivers: We support this section which would designate certain segments of the Farmington River and Salmon Brook as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. These areas are unique recreational and natural resources in an increasingly urbanized area of Connecticut.
- Section #6103 – Special Resource Study of President Street Station: We support this section that would study the President Street Station in Baltimore, Maryland in order to determine significance, suitability, and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. The former train station was an important rail transportation link during the Civil War and is the oldest surviving big-city railroad terminal in the United States.
- Section #6104 – Special Resource Study of Thurgood Marshall’s Elementary School: We support this section that would study P.S. 103 and the surrounding neighborhood of West Baltimore, Maryland in order to determine significance, suitability, and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. Former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall attended the public school as a youth and lived in the neighborhood throughout his childhood.
- Section #6105 – Special Resource Study of James K. Polk Home: We support this section that would study the James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee in order to determine significance, suitability, and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. The home is the only surviving residence of President Polk (besides the White House) and houses original possessions of the President and Mrs. Polk.
- Section #6106 – North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment: We support this section as it would change a portion of the official route of the North Country National Scenic Trail in northeastern Minnesota to a more scenic and sustainable location. The route change would incorporate into the North Country NST the now-existing, world-class hiking trails in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and along the North Shore of Lake Superior– trails that did not exist when the NST was originally authorized in 1980. Their inclusion in the NST greatly enhances local tourism and eliminates the need to route the trail through sensitive wetlands and bogs of the original (and as yet unbuilt) route, saving construction and maintenance costs. The section would also complete the connection between the North Country NST and its sister trail, the Appalachian NST, in Vermont, as originally envisioned.
- Section #6107 – Designation of Jay S. Hammond Wilderness Area: We support this section to name the designated Wilderness within Lake Clark National Park and Preserve as the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness Area, a beautiful tribute to Alaska’s highly respected governor from 1975 to 1982. Jay Hammond built his family’s homestead on the remote shores of Lake Clark and was known as a champion of rural Alaska. He was a bush pilot and a politician, a big game guide and a wildlife protection officer, a Republican and a conservationist.
- Section #6108 – Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: We support this section that would provide a full-time Chairman for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). The creation of a permanent position of chairman will allow the AHCP, an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation’s historic resources, to better advise the president and Congress on national historic preservation policy. A permanent position of chairman is a widely supported concept in the preservation community.
- Section #6241 – Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act: We support this section that would permanently reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) and also make some small changes to remove date limitations on sales that qualify for FLTFA revenue. FLTFA is an important conservation program that disposes of, through a public process, federal land parcels of little conservation value and uses the proceeds to purchase parcels of high natural, historic, and/or recreational values within federally protected lands, including national parks. Parcels are only purchased from willing sellers and help more efficiently consolidate the federal estate.
Portman/Cantwell #3309 – National Park Centennial: We support this amendment that better prepares our national parks for another century of service. This amendment establishes a fund to finance signature projects and programs by matching federal dollars with private dollars, establishes an endowment for future park investments, and defines National Park Service intellectual property and its associated prohibited use. The amendment also provides clear interpretation and education authority for the National Park Service, supports youth and volunteers, and makes modifications to the National Park Foundation board.
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