Policy Update Jun 14, 2016

Position on S. 2839, S. 1662, S. 1696, S. 2412, S. 2548, S. 2627, S. 2805, S. 2807, S. 2954, S. 3020, S. 3027, S. 3028, S. 211, S. 1623, S. 1690 and S. 1824

NPCA submitted the following positions on bills being considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee National Parks subcommittee during a hearing on June 15, 2016.

  • H.R. 3004 / S. 2839: A bill to amend the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act to extend the authorization for the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission – The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is managed by a federal commission of representatives from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida who plan the Corridor’s educational, economic development and preservation programs and oversee implementation of the management plan. NPCA supports S. 2839 / H.R. 3004 which would extend the current authorization for the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission by five years to 2021.
  • S. 1662: Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area Amendment Act – NPCA supports this legislation that would add Livingston County, the City of Jonesboro in Union County, and the city of Freeport in Stephenson County, to the boundary of the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. Livingston County is the only county in the 8th Judicial Circuit (Lincoln’s law circuit) not currently within the boundary of the National Heritage Area. The cities of Jonesboro and Freeport were both sites for Lincoln-Douglass debates of 1858. Their inclusion in the boundary will enable the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area and its partners to tell a more complete story about Lincoln’s time in Illinois prior to his election as president of the United States.
  • S. 1696 / H.R. 482: Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act – 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,’ 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. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has declared the Old Fields as ranking among the nation’s richest archaeological areas. 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. S. 1696 will honor the ancestral story of the Muscogee Creek and other southeastern Native people, will protect important wildlife and recreational resources, and will promote tourism and boost economic growth. The bill is supported by the Governors of Georgia and Oklahoma and the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes representing over 500,000 Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Seminole people throughout the United States. For these reasons, we urge your support and passage of this bill.
  • S. 2412: Tule Lake National Historic Site Establishment Act of 2015 – NPCA supports this legislation that would establish the Tule Lake National Historic Site in the State of California. The Tule Lake segregation Center, which is currently one of the sub-units of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, should be a freestanding separate unit of the National Park System. Tule Lake is the site where a Japanese American was sent if the U.S. Government deemed the individual to be “disloyal” to the United States. The Tule Lake site is quite different than the other units that make up the national monument, a monument created by President George W. Bush to celebrate and tell the stories of the valor by military personnel during World War II, including Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Aleutians site in Alaska. The Tule Lake site focuses on the history of Japanese American incarceration during the war, which is not a good fit for the ‘Valor’ title.
  • S. 2548: 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act – 2019 will mark the 400th anniversary of the first documented instance of Africans arriving in the English colony of Virginia. Dutch sailors traded “twenty and odd Africans” to the English settled on the Old Point Comfort peninsula for food. NPCA supports S. 2548 which would establish a commission to determine the appropriate ways in which this historic period, essentially the first documented instance of African slavery in Virginia, should be commemorated.
  • S. 2627: Mojave National Preserve Boundary Adjustment Act of 2016 – NPCA is very concerned with this legislation which includes a land exchange that would transfer 520 acres of federal land from the National Park Service (NPS) Mojave National Preserve to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to accommodate a highspeed rail-route along Interstate 15. The legislation should be modified to ensure certainty of the land swap, clarify that the land exchange shall only occur to accommodate the construction of the anticipated rail system, and consider a sunset provision should the rail system never be constructed, or an alternative route is identified.
  • S. 2805: A bill to modify the boundary of Voyageurs National Park in the State of Minnesota – NPCA supports this legislation that would modify the boundary of Voyageurs National Park and authorize the transfer of a number of BLM parcels within the park to the National Park Service. It also authorizes the transfer of any additional parcels that are identified by the BLM, and authorizes the park to acquire State lands in or adjacent to the park through donation or exchange only. The interagency land transfer will save staff time and taxpayer dollars by eliminating the need for duplicative land management between the two federal agencies and provide consistency to the land management of the national park. According to the National Park Service, there are no anticipated costs associated with the land transfer itself.
  • S. 2807: Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act – NPCA opposes this legislation because it could have far-reaching effects on the National Park Service’s ability to manage resources in 88 coastal national parks across the country. The bill would strip the National Park Service of its legal responsibility, under the 1916 Organic Act, to set reasonable limits on fishing to prevent overfishing, restore fish populations and habitats, and protect marine and lakeshore wildlife. The legislation substitutes that responsibility with a lower standard of protection. Many coastal parks, including Acadia National Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and Channel Islands National Park, could see a weakening in regulations designed to preserve marine and lakeshore wildlife. The federal government is obligated to protect these resources in perpetuity for the enjoyment of all Americans. Additionally, this bill would undermine public engagement in park planning processes as state fishery agencies are not subject to the same public input requirements as federal agencies. Furthermore, this overreaching legislation would derail the final and fully vetted management plan for Biscayne National Park, which was based on scientific analysis, years of interagency cooperation and strong public support. The plan includes the creation of a marine reserve to provide desperately needed protection for Biscayne’s threatened coral reef ecosystem and marine wildlife. Habitat for threatened species such as elkhorn and staghorn coral, reef fish, and sea turtles will be greatly impacted if Biscayne National Park is unable to create a protective marine reserve.
  • S. 2954: Ste. Genevieve National Historic Site Establishment Act of 2016 – NPCA supports this legislation to establish a new unit of the National Park System in the state of Missouri. Established in the mid-1700s, Ste. Genevieve was the first settlement on the west bank of the Mississippi River and is still the only surviving French Colonial village in the U.S. In May of this year, the NPS released a comprehensive Special Resource Study of the site that found that a portion of the Ste. Genevieve historic district meets criteria for national significance and suitability, and that certain resources within the district are feasible to manage as a unit and would benefit from direct NPS management.
  • S. 3020: A bill to update the map of, and modify the acreage available for inclusion in, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – NPCA supports this legislation that would modify the maximum acreage available for inclusion in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Currently, the monument is completely surrounded by private land; there is no access to the park along the western boundary. A private landowner has offered to donate his property to the NPS to expand the park and provide access to lands on the west side. This property addition will enable NPS to more easily perform fuel mitigation in order to reduce risk of catastrophic wildfires within the park, which could impact both the park and its neighbors. The addition also expands NPS management of critical wildlife migration corridors.
  • S. 3027: Acadia National Park Boundary Clarification Act – NPCA supports this legislation to adjust the boundary of Acadia National Park. The Schoodic Peninsula boasts dramatic ocean views, magnificent crashing surf, both biking and hiking trail systems with lovely coastal vistas, and a renovated and re-purposed Navy base that is now used for extensive public education and research.
  • S. 3028: Daniel J. Evans Olympic National Park Wilderness Act – NPCA supports this legislation to rename the Olympic Wilderness in Olympic National Park as the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness, a tribute to Washington’s former Republican governor, senator and member of Congress. Mr. Evans was a crucial supporter of the creation of North Cascades National Park and helped pass the Washington Wilderness Act and legislation creating the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.
  • NPCA also supports the following four National Heritage Area (NHA) bills that would either establish or authorize a study for new heritage areas. But, though we support the judicious expansion of the National Heritage Area program, we would prefer that new areas be added only after passage of programmatic legislation that would provide much-needed improvements to the way heritage areas are funded, managed and assessed.
    • S. 211: Susquehanna Gateway National Heritage Area Act – This legislation would provide critical resources to support economic development programs related to heritage tourism and recreation, advance conservation initiatives that protect the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, and lead to much needed job growth in the Lower Susquehanna Region. The lower Susquehanna River region reveals unique and iconic stories in American history from the site of Native American villages to pivotal Civil War battles. The passage of this legislation, with sufficient investment in the National Heritage Areas Program, can support local businesses and leverage federal investments into the National Park Service’s Captain John Smith National Watertrail.
    • S. 1623: Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act – This legislation would highlight the history, culture and places important to the people who have inhabited Washington State’s salt water coastline. It will help tell their stories, including those of Native Americans as well as modern European settlement, draw tourists, and focus attention and support for protecting historic places and structures.
    • S. 1690: Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area Act – This legislation would link rural Washington with Seattle, while supporting local communities in helping them protect historic structures and open space important for farming and recreation. It would highlight the people, history, cultures and landscapes along the primary transportation artery coming from the East and which has been important to developing the nation’s gateway to the Pacific and Asia.
    • S. 1824: Finger Lakes National Heritage Area Study Act of 2015 – This legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating certain land as the Finger Lakes National Heritage Area. The historic Finger Lakes Region of New York State is a 9,000 square mile, four-season playground, set against a backdrop of Mother Nature’s best work – from waterfalls and gorges to thick, cool woods to rolling hills to miles of spectacular shoreline on 11 glacial lakes and one Great Lake. It also includes the Women’s Rights National Historical Park that tells the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY on July 19-20, 1848.