Policy Update Aug 14, 2018

Position on S. 599, S. 1644, S. 1993, S. 2015, S. 2604, S. 2870, S. 2889, S. 2831, S. 3176, S. 3827

NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources National Parks Subcommittee ahead of a hearing scheduled for August 15, 2018.

S. 599 / H.R. 1488: Indiana Dunes National Park Designation Act – NPCA is concerned that this bill does not include language that seeks to protect the unique natural resources found at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Currently, the Lakeshore is managed in a similar way to other Lakeshores and National Recreation Areas – the enabling legislation allows for uses and activities that may not be compatible with the purpose and significance of a National Park, such as trapping. Additionally, Indiana Dunes is in a highly developed and industrial setting and was established with a fragmented boundary—many subsequent additions to the park are non-contiguous parcels. NPCA encourages the committee to 1) consider a boundary study and 2) change the land acquisition policy before making this designation change. A boundary study could ease management challenges and enhance the visitor experience to the area.

S. 1644: Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail Parity Act – The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, as designated by Congress in 2006, is America’s first water-based National Historic Trail. The trail commemorates Smith’s 17th-century explorations in the Chesapeake Bay region and his encounters with Native American communities. NPCA supports “unit status” for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, identified as a nationally significant resource. Units of the National Park System are huge economic generators for their local gateway communities. Although it is official National Park Service policy to manage and administer national park units and national parks that do not have “unit status” equally, in reality, important differences exist. “Unit status” would benefit visitors to the trail with enhanced interpretation and experiences as demonstrated by the dramatic increase in visitation when the Zimmerman Center in Pennsylvania became affiliated with the National Park Service as the first visitor contact station for the trail.

S. 1993: Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act – “From the Santa Susana Mountains to the heart of the city at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the Rim of the Valley is an area rich in historic and cultural sites and critical wildlife corridors, waterways and landscapes worthy of national recognition and protection by the National Park Service.” With more than 17 million people, the Los Angeles Metropolitan area is the second most populous region of the country; yet has less open space per capita than all other large cities on the west coast. NPCA supports the Rim of the Valley proposal that represents an opportunity to better protect and manage some of the region’s last wild lands, open spaces—including habitat for threatened species ranging from the mountain lion to the red-legged frog—and historic sites that will allow the National Park Service to tell the story of Los Angeles’s rich and nationally-significant history. The expanded presence of the National Park Service will also facilitate new partnerships with schools, local governments and community-based organizations to improve outreach and park service-led interpretive programs, better connect youth and families to the outdoors, and build a new generation of national park enthusiasts. Additionally, the adjustment respects local land use authorities, forbids the use of eminent domain, and has no impact on rights of private property owners.

S. 2015: National Scenic Trails Parity Act – NPCA supports this legislation because it addresses inequities in the management of the six National Scenic Trails (NSTs) administered by the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS has assigned “unit status” to the Appalachian, Potomac Heritage and Natchez Trace NSTs, while withholding “unit status” from the North Country, Ice Age and New England NSTs. By assigning “unit status” to the three other trails, it creates a level playing field in access to NPS funding, programming and promotional opportunities as part of the National Park System, which these three trails are currently excluded from. “Unit status” would not create jurisdictional and management conflicts where they traverse other Federal lands, such as National Forests, since this is precluded in Section 7(a) of the National Trails System Act.

S. 2604: Oil Region National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act – Oil Region commemorates the legacy of the world’s first commercially successful commercial oil well developed in northwestern Pennsylvania. The oil region encompasses Venango County, Oil Creek Township, the borough of Hydetown, and the City of Titusville, Pennsylvania. Oil Region NHA supports educational, recreational and entrepreneurial opportunities for residents and visitors throughout the “Valley that changed the world;” NPCA supports this legislation to reauthorize the National Heritage Area.

S. 2870: Amache Study Act – NPCA supports this legislation to take the initial steps needed to preserve and protect Amache internment camp site in Granada, Colorado. This bill will provide the formal process and social science to elevate, preserve and restore Amache to its due place in American history.

NPCA firmly believes the importance and central role of the National Park Service in telling our collective history. That collective history cannot be fully told until we learn and pay respect to those who continue to suffer because of their unjust incarceration at Amache. We are appreciative that the study will consider the preservation of and the sensitivities associated with the loss of life, suffering, and the stripping of unalienable rights of more than seven thousand United States citizens. Amache, and former internment camp sites throughout the west, have been physically eroded by time but still stand today as a mirror to our country that reflects on issues of racism and fear that are as relevant today as they were nearly 75 years ago. The lack of adequate protection and funding of the Amache site to date serves as a shameful mark on our history, underscoring the lessons we as a nation, have not yet learned. Our nation owes all that suffered within the confines of Amache the due recognition of their struggle. Studying the Amache site allows for the opportunity to teach current and future generations of the mistakes that allowed for Executive Order 9066 to suspend the foundational American law that all men are created equal, and that allowed for systemic racism and fear to overrule our core beliefs and Constitution.

S. 2889 / H.R. 4895: Medgar Evers Home National Monument Act – Medgar Evers was a powerful voice and presence for the civil rights movement. A veteran of United States armed forces, Evers joined the fight for equality upon returning to civilian life and served as the first NAACP field secretary for Mississippi. Although his voice was silenced by an assassin’s bullet in 1963, his legacy survived his death at the age of 37. NPCA supports the establishment of national park site commemorating his life and work. However, NPCA opposes language in the bill regarding “buffer zones,” since it seeks to override existing National Park Service authorities’ to protect park resources and values. The Park Service must consider how activities on adjacent lands affect park resources and the visitor experience and be able to engage the community in finding reasonable solutions to potentially difficult management challenges.

S. 2831 / H.R. 5751: Golden Spike 150th Anniversary Act – 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. NPCA encourages Congress to include information regarding the labor of diverse immigrants along the railroad in the bill itself and honor the roles of workers that made the track and Park Service 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.

Recognizing the stories that the Golden Spike site and bill honor, NPCA has concerns with portions of the bills. 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, 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.

S. 3176 / H.R. 5979: Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument Act – The Battle of Mill Springs was the first decisive Federal victory of the Civil War and the beginning of a series of Confederate setbacks in the Western Theater. Mill Springs Battlefield, the Brown-Lanier House and the West-Metcalf house, are intact examples of a civil war battlefield and related properties that were occupied at the time of the Battle. The preserved encampment and earth works at Beech Grove provide an insight into the Confederate Army’s winter field camp in the winter of 1861-62.

In 1991, the National Park Service put Mill Springs on the Most Endangered Battlefield List. Since 1991 the Mill Springs Battlefield Association has purchased and maintained nearly 500 acres of battlefield land. In 1993 the Mill Springs Battlefield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1994 Mill Springs Battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark.

While NPCA supports the bill, we oppose language regarding “buffer zones” since it seeks to override existing National Park Service authorities’ to protect park resources and values. The Park Service must consider how activities on adjacent lands affect park resources and the visitor experience and be able to engage the community in finding reasonable solutions to potentially difficult management challenges.

S. 3287 / H.R. 5655: Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument Act – NPCA supports this legislation to protect the Camp Nelson area as a National Monument. Roughly 180,000 African American men fought for the Union during the American Civil War. Beginning in 1864, Camp Nelson served as one of the largest recruitment, mustering and training depots for United States Colored Troops (USCT). Locals have supported preservation of the Camp Nelson story for decades. The designation of the site as a national monument to be managed by the National Park Service ensures that the important resources and stories associated with Camp Nelson will be protected in perpetuity for the benefit, enjoyment and inspiration of the American people and international visitors alike.

While NPCA supports the bill, we oppose language regarding “buffer zones” since it seeks to override existing National Park Service authorities’ to protect park resources and values. The Park Service must consider how activities on adjacent lands affect park resources and the visitor experience and be able to engage the community in finding reasonable solutions to potentially difficult management challenges.