Policy Update Jul 25, 2017

Position on H.R. 965 & H.R. 3115

NPCA submitted the following positions to the House Committee on Natural Resources ahead of a markup scheduled for July 25-26, 2017.

H.R. 965: 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.

H.R. 3115: Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act of 2017 – NPCA opposes this legislation, as it would force a land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service and a private mining company, PolyMet Mining Inc., paving the way for a controversial mining project that threatens the waters, wetlands and wildlife of Lake Superior and the national parks along its shores. The land exchange involves over 6,600 acres of Superior National Forest, upstream from the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior, traded for the construction of an open-pit copper-nickel mine, threatening an area rich in biodiversity.

The proposed exchange lands contain highly treasured habitat for several endangered species including the northern long-eared bat, which also uses habitat on nearby Isle Royale National Park. In current, pending litigation, several groups have asked the court to determine whether federal agencies complied with the Endangered Species Act in approving the land exchange. Additionally, several groups are currently challenging the valuation of the land under consideration for exchange to the mining company, noting discrepancies in the appraisals for similar lands in the area. Both of these issues involve questions of federal law that belong in federal court. However, this bill seeks to circumvent judicial review and compel a land exchange that may undervalue public lands and shortchange taxpayers, and violate the Endangered Species Act. This legislation is premature given no permits have been issued for the mine, thus there is no urgency requiring Congress to act on this matter.