Policy Update Jul 27, 2015

Position on S. 145, S. 146, S. 329, S. 403, S. 521, S. 610, S. 873, and S. 1483

NPCA submitted the following positions on legislation considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources National Parks subcommittee on June 10, 2015.

S. 145: National Park Access Act – NPCA conditionally supports this legislation that seeks to reimburse those states that donated funds in order to re-open several national parks during the October government shutdown. Although those states signed donation agreements to re-open national parks that clearly stated there was no guarantee they would be reimbursed, they judged that risk to be worth taking in light of the enormous economic importance of national parks to state and local economies.

NPCA feels strongly that the funding of national parks is – first and foremost – a federal responsibility. Thus, we find it appropriate that the states in question be reimbursed for the expenses they incurred. That said, we are now approaching the second fiscal year since the shutdown. Because this bill requires reimbursement from the National Park Service’s operating account, it likely will require cutbacks from budgeted expenses for the fiscal year during which states are repaid. Therefore, we encourage Congress to seek sources of reimbursement that do not result in an effective cut to the National Park Service’s operating budget for the fiscal year in which the states are reimbursed. We hope that advocates for this measure will also advocate for additional resources for our national parks in FY 2016.

S. 146: Public Access to Public Land Guarantee Act – NPCA opposes this legislation because we disagree with the bill’s premise of anticipating future shutdowns; Congress should instead be working to avoid future shutdowns and to repair the appropriations process. Timely passage of appropriations bills can avoid shutdown-related impacts including costs, inefficiencies, and management challenges for an underfunded National Park Service. Congress should avoid any lapse of appropriations to best avoid adverse impacts to national parks, their visitors, and local economies.

S. 329: Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic River Act – NPCA supports this legislation which would designate certain segments of the Farmington River and Salmon Brook as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. These areas are unique recreational and natural resources in an increasingly urbanized area of Connecticut.

S. 403: North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act – NPCA supports this legislation as it would change a portion of the official route of the North Country National Scenic Trail 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 as 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.

S. 521: President Street Station Study Act – NPCA supports this legislation that would study the President Street Station in Baltimore, Maryland in order to determine significance, suitability, and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. The former train station was an important rail transportation link during the Civil War and is the oldest surviving big-city railroad terminal in the United States.

S. 610: Thurgood Marshall’s Elementary School Study Act – NPCA supports this legislation that would study P.S. 103 and the surrounding neighborhood of West Baltimore, Maryland in order to determine significance, suitability, and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. Former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall attended the public school as a youth and lived in the neighborhood throughout his childhood.

S. 873: Jay S. Hammond Wilderness Act – NPCA supports this legislation to name the designated Wilderness within Lake Clark National Park and Preserve as the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness Area, a beautiful tribute to Alaska’s highly respected governor from 1975 to 1982. Jay Hammond built his family’s homestead on the remote shores of Lake Clark and was known as a champion of rural Alaska. He was a bush pilot and a politician, a big game guide and a wildlife protection officer, a Republican and a conservationist.

S. 1483: James K. Polk Presidential Home Study Act – NPCA supports this legislation that would study the James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee in order to determine significance, suitability, and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. The home is the only surviving residence of President Polk (besides the White House) and houses original possessions of the President and Mrs. Polk.