NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Natural Resources Committee ahead of a markup scheduled for June 6, 2018.
H.R. 5751 redesignates Golden Spike National Historic Site as Golden Spike National Historical Park and establishes a network of sites related to the history, construction, and legacy of the Transcontinental Railroad, as a program of the National Park Service. Further, H.R. 5751 authorizes the superintendent of Golden Spike National Historical Park to enter into agreements with adjacent landowners to complete minor projects and remove invasive species.
NPCA strongly supports expanding the National Park System to more fully tell the story of America’s history, culture and our diverse experiences as a nation. The Golden Spike site certainly offers a unique narrative on the transcontinental railroad boom in the 19th Century—a significant turning point in westward expansion, the makeup of the American workforce and the reach of national media.
Recognizing the stories that the Golden Spike site and bill honor, NPCA has concerns with portions of the bill. The intention of the Transcontinental Railroad Network (TRN) seems to mirror those of other “networks” in the National Park System supported by NPCA. However, the scale and scope of the TRN is significant (2,000-mile railroad corridor), and while criteria are offered in Sec. 4© and (d), these are numerous and will require an unknown but significant amount of National Park Service (NPS) outreach. To that end, this expansion, absence additional funding (see Sec. 7) or resources, may significantly over-tax existing NPS staff. Without known additional resources or philanthropic engagement, the development of robust partnerships to support the TRN rests on adjacent landowners. Lacking adequate NPS capacity to work with such a potentially large number of landowners, we are concerned these partnerships may not result in a balanced or sustainable network to honor the Transcontinental Railroad story. For example, NPCA certainly supports the removal (and necessary treatment) of invasive species; however, without NPS support and guidance along an NPS managed site or network, such activities could be delayed (30-days is very brief) or poorly implemented without adequate mitigation planning, resources or compliance staff engagement.
Additionally, NPCA is concerned with Section 5 relating to Historical Crossings. Again, a 30-day review period is very brief and insufficient to complete a thorough review of any proposed activities. Also, there are no parameters for the substance of possible proposed activities and no requirement of NEPA. It is important that the Park Service be allowed to review the environmental impacts of possible, unspecified activities.
Finally, while the committee’s Hearing Memo offers information regarding the labor of diverse immigrants along the railroad, NPCA encourages Representative Bishop to include this narrative in the bill itself and honor the roles of workers that made the track and NPS site possible. For example, between 1865 and 1869, approximately 12,000 Chinese laborers were hired to work on the completion of the railroad accounting for 85 percent of the Central Pacific Railroad workforce.
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Climate and Conservation Program Manager.