Policy Update Jun 22, 2023

Position on H.R. 3025, regarding Virgin Islands National Park

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands ahead of a hearing scheduled for June 22, 2023.

H.R.3025 - To provide for no net increase in the total acreage of Federal land in the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, United States Virgin Islands: NPCA strongly opposes this legislation, which could prevent the National Park Service (NPS) from acquiring and retaining land within the congressionally authorized boundary of Virgin Islands National Park. As of March 2023, nearly 2,000 acres within the park boundary were held by private or non-federal entities. Should one of those willing sellers wish to sell to NPS, the park would be required to convey an equal acreage of land currently within the park out of federal ownership. There is no precedent for this anywhere in the National Park System. And the bill goes even further: if the federal park land is to be sold, the bill requires a monthly price decrease once the land has been on the market and unsold for six months. This would incentivize potential buyers to hold out for a better price while decreasing the return taxpayers will receive on the sale of federal land.

Placing this acre-for-acre tradeoff requirement on Virgin Islands National Park hamstrings NPS and local communities as they work to make smart decisions to protect this national treasure while supporting the tourism economy. The Virgin Islands National Park’s importance to local community livelihoods and the local economy cannot be understated: in 2021, nearly 325,000 park visitors spent nearly $50 million in local gateway communities while visiting the Park. These expenditures supported a total of 565 jobs, $24.4 million in labor income, $46.0 million in value added, and $69.6 million in economic output in local gateway economies surrounding Virgin Islands National Park. Reducing protection for a national park in unprecedented ways is not something we believe Congress should endorse.