Policy Update Jul 18, 2017

Position on S. 257, S. 312, S. 355, S. 391, S. 1073, S. 1403, S. 1438 & S. 1522

NPCA submitted the following positions to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks ahead of a legislative hearing scheduled for July 19, 2017.

S. 257: Acadia National Park Boundary Clarification Act – NPCA supports sections of this bill and recommends edits to Section 8 – Continuation of Certain Traditional Uses. NPCA supports the addition of the Schoodic Peninsula to Acadia National Park. This area’s pristine beauty and improved public amenities allow visitors to camp, bike and hike the Schoodic Woods while finding peace and solitude along Maine’s stunning and undeveloped coastline. NPCA also supports the permanent authorization of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission as it plays an integral role in providing local feedback to creatively problem solve and move toward successes at Acadia National Park. NPCA supports the modification of the land use designation for the Tremont School area of the park. Section 7 expands the functionality of the Tremont School by enabling the facility to be used for more than just school purposes, and to welcome other public uses such as recreation, education and similar municipal services.

NPCA opposes Section 8 as it is too broadly written and could subsequently have sweeping negative consequences on Acadia’s marine organisms and intertidal ecosystems. NPCA recognizes that clamming and worming are acceptable and traditional uses in Acadia National Park. However, seaweed harvesting and rockweed harvesting would be considered new uses at the park. Seaweed and rockweed are very important species that ensure the park ecosystems remain dynamic and healthy for other marine species, such as fish, sea stars, dogwhelks and shellfish. Additionally, rockweed grows at a very slow rate in Acadia’s waters making extraction and over-harvesting a serious concern. Harvesting these marine plant species in the park would diminish a primary food source for many marine species and threaten unique habitats in Acadia’s intertidal zone.

NPCA recommends a revision of Section 8 to eliminate the words “aquaculture” and “other marine organisms” with an emphasis on non-mechanized harvesting tactics. NPCA recommends the below language:

“To allow for the continuation of traditional harvesting, commercial and non-commercial, of clams, worms, mussels, and periwinkles in intertidal areas in the Park, the Secretary shall permit the nonmechanized harvesting of clams, worms, mussels, and periwinkles in the Park in accordance with the laws (including regulations) of the State of Maine and units of local government in the State of Maine.’’

S. 312: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act – NPCA supports this legislation to redesignate Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park. The National Historical Park designation applies to sites that extend beyond a single historical feature or property. The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site not only encompasses the studio and estate of world-renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, but also includes the Cornish Art Colony and Blow-Me-Down Farm. In the decades before World War I, these sites together comprised one of America’s most prolific and vibrant artist communities. At 370 acres, the site is larger than over a third of present-day National Historical Parks and contains three nature trails for hiking. The redesignation to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park more accurately reflects the site and the rich cultural heritage of the era.

S. 355: Wounded Veterans Recreation Act of 2017 – NPCA supports this legislation that amends the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to require the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass to be made available at no charge to, and for the lifetime of, any veteran with a service-connected disability. The Pass is currently made available at no charge to, and for the lifetime of, any U.S. citizen or person domiciled in the United States who has been medically determined to be permanently disabled. NPCA supports this bill that would allow our disabled veterans who have proudly served their country to enjoy our national parks free of charge.

S. 391: The African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center Act – NPCA supports this legislation to establish a Memorial Museum and Educational Center for the African Burial Ground National Monument. The bill allows for acquisition of property adjacent to the monument or within the vicinity of the existing landmark for the purpose of creating a museum. The museum will commemorate the significance of the African Burial Ground, celebrate the cultural traditions brought to the United States by enslaved African Americans, and help the public better understand our nation’s history while honoring those who suffered from slavery during the colonial era. The bill also establishes a formal advisory council known as the African Burial Ground Advisory Council. This council will be vital to shepherding the creation of the new Memorial Museum and will play a lead role in assisting the Secretary of the Interior and the National Park Service to operate and preserve the museum for future generations.

This legislation authorizes construction, appoints a Museum Director and two staff, and authorizes $15 million in Fiscal Year 2018 for initial cost of the museum. The Department of the Interior is required to pay two-thirds of the cost of acquiring the building, planning, design, construction, reconstruction and renovation as necessary. The Memorial Museum will be managed as a unit of the African Burial Ground National Monument and subject to law under the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior.

S. 1073: Escambia County Land Conveyance Act – NPCA opposes this legislation because the transfer of lands could cause lasting harm to the resources of Gulf Islands National Seashore. When Santa Rosa Island National Monument was deauthorized in 1946, the federal government authorized the transfer of federal lands to Escambia County with certain use restrictions to ensure the land was administered in the public interest. S. 1073 would supersede this agreement and allow for the conveyance of these same lands—portions of Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach—to Santa Rosa County or other interests without use restrictions. Though the lands in question sit outside of the boundary of Gulf Islands National Seashore, changes to their management, and possible improper development, could affect significant natural and cultural resources, pristine and wild beaches, public access and rare and endangered species habitat.

More importantly, S. 1073 includes a significant, problematic language change from earlier iterations of this bill. At present, S. 1073 only requires Escambia County to continue to preserve non-federal conservation lands in perpetuity and does not place the same requirement on Santa Rosa County. The preservation clause of Section 3 (g) should be amended to include the requirement for Santa Rosa County to also preserve in perpetuity any lands currently dedicated for conservation.

S. 1403: 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act of 2017 – NPCA supports this legislation to amend the Public Lands Corps Act to establish the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps to place young people and/or veterans in national service positions to conserve and restore our national parks and other federal lands. NPCA supports this effort to teach youth and veterans skills to successfully transition to the workforce while instilling the importance of our public lands.

S. 1438: Gateway Arch National Park Designation Act – NPCA supports this legislation to redesignate the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as the Gateway Arch National Park. The park commemorates the westward movement of American explorers and pioneers and the origins of the debate over slavery through the Dred Scott case. The arch has become an icon of St. Louis and the country.

S. 1522: A bill to establish an Every Kid Outdoors Program – This legislation establishes a program to provide free access for fourth grade students and accompanying individuals to federal lands and waters. This bill would codify a widely popular initiative started during the Centennial year of the National Park Service. NPCA supports this bill to incentivize young people and their families to experience and appreciate our national parks and other federal lands and water.