Policy Update Apr 17, 2018

Position on H.R. 1026, H.R. 2991 & H.R. 3440

NPCA submitted the following positions to the House Natural Resources Committee ahead of a markup scheduled for April 18, 2018.

H.R. 1026: North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act – NPCA supports this legislation to change a portion of the official route of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NST) 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 yet unbuilt) route, saving construction and maintenance costs. The Act would also complete the connection between the North Country NST and its sister trail, the Appalachian NST, in Vermont, as originally envisioned. The changes to the trail would not adversely affect the rights of landowners as the National Park Service only has the authority to purchase land or rights of way from willing sellers.

H.R. 2991: Susquehanna National Heritage Area Act – NPCA supports this legislation to support place-based 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 Area Program, can support local businesses and leverage federal investments into the National Park Service’s Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

We remain mindful, however, that the absence of programmatic legislation to coordinate heritage areas and inadequate operating funds for the 49 NHAs that currently exist, complicates the process of adding new sites. NPCA recommends passage of H.R. 1002, the National Heritage Area Program Act, which would create a system of National Heritage Areas (the current program lacks such a formal structure), and the increase in operating funding for National Heritage Areas to $25 million annually. Enactment of H.R. 1002 will bring much needed uniformity to the way NHAs are designated, managed, assessed and funded. Increasing the program’s operating budget to $25 million will provide relief for existing heritage areas and accommodate the addition of qualified new sites without requiring the older, more well-established NHAs to suffer budget cuts.

H.R. 3400: Recreation Not Red Tape Act – NPCA supports this legislation to allow for increased opportunities for Americans to recreate on their public lands. Visitors to national parks and public lands can enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, picnicking, and paddling, among a variety of activities in beautiful locations all over the country. NPCA supports the addition of, through an amendment in the nature of a substitute, language to expand and codify the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps program. NPCA supports this effort to teach youth and veterans skills to successfully transition to the workforce while instilling the importance of our public lands. Additionally, NPCA supports the addition of, through an amendment in the nature of a substitute, language to establish the ‘Every Kid Outdoors’ program. NPCA supports this program that incentivizes young people and their families to experience and appreciate our national parks and other federal lands and waters.