Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Mr. Donald Murphy

Deputy Director , National Park Service

STATEMENT OF DONALD W. MURPHY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 574, TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO AMEND THE QUINEBAUG AND SHETUCKET RIVERS VALLEY NATIONAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR ACT OF 1994 AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

June 22, 2006


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 574, a bill to amend the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor Act of 1994.  The Department does not support enactment of this bill. 

The Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor, also known as The Last Green Valley, was authorized in 1994 and comprised 25 communities in northeastern Connecticut.  It began receiving federal funding in 1996 and in its first four years of operation, it received $200,000 per year.  It became the first national heritage area to be managed by a non-profit organization, the Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor, Inc.  Its first plan, Vision to Reality: A Management Plan, was completed in 1997.

In 1999, the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor (QSHC) was expanded to include 10 additional communities in its watershed in Connecticut and Massachusetts, making it the second bi-state national heritage area in the country.  At the same time, its original seven-year authorization was extended through 2009 and a new ceiling of $10,000,000 was authorized with an annual amount not-to-exceed $1,000,000, in keeping with other similar national heritage areas. At that time, Vision 2010: A Plan for the Next Ten Years was completed, along with the Interpretive Initiative for the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor.  With the additional federal investment and larger regional focus, many successful programs were initiated.  Appropriations from FY 1996 through FY 2006 have totaled $5,581,000.

S. 574 would increase the ceiling on appropriations to the QSHC from $10,000,000 to $20,000,000 and extend the termination date of the Secretary of the Interior’s financial commitment from September 30, 2009 to September 30, 2027 which is inconsistent with the national heritage area program legislation passed by the Senate last year and supported by the Administration. 

With regard to that legislation, a recent National Park System Advisory Board report Charting a Future for National Heritage Areas  recognized that national heritage areas need a legislative foundation that frames and supports the important role of national heritage areas in expanding conservation stewardship and in identifying and preserving significant historic resources. The national heritage area program legislation (S. 243) that passed the Senate last year and is supported by the Department would provide such a framework.  The program legislation authorizes the Secretary to provide financial assistance to national heritage areas for a period not to exceed 15 years after an area is designated by Congress.  Local coordinating entities that prepare and implement the management plan for the national heritage area could receive up to $1 million per year, not to exceed $10 million over the 15-year period.  Prior to the end of the 15-year period, an evaluation and report would be required on the accomplishments, sustainability, and recommendations for the future of each national heritage area.  Extending the federal financial commitment to this heritage area is not in keeping with this framework.

During the 12 years since designated by Congress, the QSHC has accomplished many partnership-oriented projects related to resource protection and interpretation within the watershed as outlined in the management plan.  Under its existing authorization, the area will continue to receive annual federal funding for three more years.  As is stated in the program legislation, we would recommend that the area begin to evaluate how it will sustain its efforts to protect resources when federal funding ends in 2009.

The Green Valley Institute (GVI) is a partnership among the QSHC, the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the cooperative extension system of the University of Massachusetts.  Its programs are made possible through active partnerships with many additional organizations and communities, and the active involvement of QSHC’s Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee.  GVI programs specifically target three local audiences: private landowners; municipal leaders and land use commissioners; and contractors, realtors and others who convert open space to other uses. Now in its fifth year, the work of GVI has been positively recognized with eight state and national awards. 

GVI was created to help document, plan for and protect the priceless land-based resources of the region.  Its goals are to improve the knowledge base from which land use and natural resources decisions are made, and to build local capacity to protect and manage natural resources as the region grows.

The nearly 1,100-square miles of The Last Green Valley provide a challenge to cohesive and engaging regional interpretation of natural and historical resources.  Over the past several years, QSHC has developed a number of interpretive strategies to educate residents and visitors alike, while providing an entertaining base from which to generate tourism.  For example, Last Green Valley Ventures is a program that (1) circulates people and information throughout the region; (2) provides adequate visitor services, orientation to The Last Green Valley and interpretation of the many regional themes; (3) assures quality, consistency and hospitality; and (4) collects important statistical data to inform future marketing and programming.  The program combines current assets of The Last Green Valley, the compendium of existing research and support brochures, the complimenting businesses offering unique experiences, and partners from public and private sectors into one cohesive product.

Last Green Valley Ventures also dovetails with an on-line educational resources guide, Valley Quest, used by regional educators, parents and youth group leaders to educate and inspire the future stewards of the QSHC.

Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor, Inc, who manages the heritage corridor and implements the management plan, has distributed $1.6 million in historic preservation and partnership program grants to municipal governments and non-profits for nearly 200 projects, resulting in the leveraging of $7 million overall.  The grants have built local capacity, revitalized downtown areas, supported trail design and enhancements, improved water quality, supported  economic development and tourism, just to name a few.

Local support for the QSHC is evident by the lengthy list of partners in their annual reports that includes entities from all geographic areas and mission areas.  QSHC’s large grassroots organization consistently has more than 100 people involved in active working committees each month.  Each of the 35 towns in the region has signed a voluntary and nonbinding community compact in which the local governments accepted the goals and objectives of the Quinebaug-Shetucket management plan and formalized the towns’ commitment to balance conservation and growth in their collective vision for the watershed.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to comment.  This concludes my prepared remarks and I will be happy to answer any questions you or other committee members might have.

STATEMENT OF DONALD W. MURPHY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 1387, TO PROVIDE FOR AN UPDATE OF THE CULTURAL HERITAGE AND LAND MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE JOHN H. CHAFEE BLACKSTONE VALLEY NATIONAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR, TO EXTEND THE AUTHORITY OF THE JOHN H. CHAFEE BLACKSTONE RIVER VALLEY NATIONAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR COMMISSION, TO AUTHORIZE THE UNDERTAKING OF A SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY OF SITES AND LANDSCAPE FEATURES WITHIN THE CORRIDOR, AND TO AUTHORIZE ADDITIONAL APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE CORRIDOR.

June 22, 2006

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Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1387, a bill that would reauthorize the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission for a period of 10 years, provide for an update of corridor planning documents, authorize a Special Resource Study, authorize additional appropriations for the corridor for operations and development, and increase the membership of  the commission. The Department is unable to support enactment of S. 1387 as presently drafted, but would support a limited reauthorization of the commission.  The Department opposes the authorization of $10 million in additional development funds.

The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which has been in existence for 20 years, is considered among the leading national heritage efforts in the nation.  The commission that has managed the corridor’s programs and projects has made exceptional strides in the preservation and protection of a myriad of resources and in interpreting the rich stories of the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution” – the Blackstone River Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

It was in the Blackstone River Valley at Pawtucket that Samuel Slater, a British immigrant, in concert with Moses Brown developed the first successful textile manufacturing mill that triggered our own industrial revolution, one that continues today. Indeed, the Blackstone River Valley itself became a major center of manufacturing in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries.  Today, largely due to the recognition of the corridor by Congress, and the important work of the commission, the region has seen a rebirth through intelligent and adaptive reuse of previous mills and manufacturing facilities.  As residents came to fully understand the nation-changing history of their region, the stories of its people, and its untapped community and economic potential through historic preservation, pride of place and appreciation of shared heritage soon followed. 

National heritage areas and historic preservation efforts throughout the country have benefited from the leadership and best practices for which Blackstone is well-known.  The commission has and continues to enjoy exceptional support among state and local governments, businesses, private organizations, and the general public of the region.

The National Park Service (NPS) has had a unique relationship with the commission and its innovative and productive work since the corridor was established in November 1986.  Consistent with section 4 of the authorizing legislation, the NPS has provided staff to the commission and conducts ranger-led interpretive programs in the corridor.  Congress, recognizing this special relationship, has consistently authorized funding for projects in the corridor in the Line Item Construction portion of the NPS budget.  The executive director of the commission, a NPS employee, also serves as Superintendent of the Roger Williams National Memorial, a small unit of the National Park System in Providence, Rhode Island.

S. 1387, besides providing for reauthorization of the commission, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a Special Resource Study to determine whether areas in the corridor meet the criteria for congressional designation as a unit of the National Park System.  We believe the conduct of such a study is timely and appropriate.  It would permit the Secretary to make recommendations to Congress including the future role that NPS may play in the preservation and protection of additional corridor resources.

The National Park System Advisory Board in its recent report entitled Charting a Future for National Heritage Areas recognized the important role of national heritage areas in expanding conservation stewardship and in identifying and preserving significant historic resources.  The report also recognized that national heritage areas need a legislative foundation that establishes a clear process for designation, administration, and evaluation. The national heritage area program legislation (S. 243) that passed the Senate last year and is supported by the Department also outlined the steps to be followed for success as a national heritage area.  Both the Advisory Board report and the proposed legislative framework recommended that prior to consideration for reauthorization, an individual national heritage area should be the subject of a study to determine any future and appropriate level of NPS involvement including, but not limited to, future federal funding.  Blackstone is the first heritage area to have followed this process.  A study prepared in 2005 by the NPS Conservation Study Institute entitled, Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future concluded that there is a clear need to sustain an effective coordinating framework for the corridor and an on-going relationship with the NPS.

The Department believes that S. 1387, if amended, can provide the basis whereby the important work of the commission may continue while providing an opportunity for the NPS and the commission to explore viable alternatives for the future management of heritage resources in the region.  This can be accomplished while maintaining the cooperative working relationship that has been the hallmark of our joint efforts to preserve, protect, and enhance the nationally significant and important resources of the Blackstone River Valley.

The Department recommends that the bill be amended in section 2(d) to only reauthorize the commission for a five-year period, and that the update of the management plan in section 2(c) include a requirement that the plan identify a successor non-Federal management entity for the corridor, comprised of a board with broad regional representation.  The updated plan should also provide the schedule and manner in which the transition of the management of the corridor will occur from the present federal commission to a new management entity by the end of the five-year reauthorization period.  Finally, the plan should provide information on how the heritage corridor will be financially self-sufficient as its work continues beyond the five-year reauthorization period.

The Department would further recommend that the Special Resource Study authorized in section 2(e) be submitted to the Committee on Resources in the House of Representatives and Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in the Senate no later than 90 days after it is completed instead of the proposed 30-day requirement in order to permit full consideration by the Secretary to make an informed recommendation to Congress.  Finally, the Department would recommend that section 2(f) be amended to strike the authorization for $10 million in development funds in order to be consistent with the appropriation levels of other national heritage areas.

The Department believes that these amendments will permit the John H. Chafee Blackstone National Heritage Corridor Commission to continue its significant contributions to the region while providing the necessary time for transition to a non- federal, locally supported management entity to carry on the commission’s valuable work into the future. 

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony and I am prepared to answer any questions that you or other members of the committee might have at this time.

STATEMENT OF DONALD W. MURPHY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1721 A BILL TO AMEND THE OMNIBUS PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1996 TO EXTEND THE AUTHORIZATION FOR CERTAIN NATIONAL HERITAGE AREAS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

June 22, 2006


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1721, the National Heritage Area Extension Act of 2005.

The bill has four titles.  Title I would extend the authority for nine national heritage areas to receive federal funds for an additional 15 years.  It would increase the authorization ceiling from $10 million to $20 million per area, and would make several amendments to the authorizing legislation for three of these areas.  Title II would reauthorize the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail, eliminate the $4,000,000 appropriations ceiling, and require that the Secretary undertake a strategic plan to increase opportunities for participation by the public in the trail route. Title III would reauthorize the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission for an additional 20 years, update the management plan, provide for additional commission members to be appointed, authorize an additional $10 million for the commission, and authorize $10 million in development funds to the heritage corridor. Title IV would designate the Mississippi River National Heritage Area across 10 states.

Based on the complexity and varied nature of each of these titles, the Department would like to present our position on each title separately.

Title I-Extensions and Technical Corrections to Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996
 
Title I would extend the authorization for nine national heritage areas, authorized in the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996, from September 30, 2012 to September 30, 2027, and would increase their current appropriations ceiling of $10 million to $20 million.  It also would make several minor amendments to the authorizing legislation for the National Coal Heritage Area, the South Carolina Heritage Area, and the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Corridor.  Although the Department supports the proposed minor amendments to the three heritage areas, we do not support reauthorizing federal assistance to all nine heritage areas for an additional 15 years or increasing their authorization ceilings.

 A recent National Park System Advisory Board report Charting a Future for National Heritage Areas recognized the important role of national heritage areas in expanding conservation stewardship and in identifying and preserving significant historic resources. The report also recognized that national heritage areas need a legislative foundation that frames and supports this approach.  The national heritage area program legislation (S. 243) that passed the Senate last year and is supported by the Department would provide such a framework. 

The program legislation authorizes the Secretary to provide financial assistance to national heritage areas for a period not to exceed 15 years after an area is designated by Congress.  Local coordinating entities that prepare and implement the management plan for the national heritage area could receive up to $1 million per year, not to exceed $10 million over the 15-year period.  Prior to the end of the 15-year period, an evaluation and report would be required on the accomplishments, sustainability, and recommendations for the future of each national heritage area.  Extending the federal financial commitment to the heritage areas in S. 1721 is not in keeping with this framework.  Therefore, the Department does not support section 101(a) of S. 1721.

Title II-Reauthorization of Appropriations for New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route

Title II would reauthorize the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route, eliminate the $4,000,000 appropriations ceiling, and require the completion of a strategic plan by the Secretary. The Department supports Title II of S. 1721 with three amendments.

In 1988, the Secretary was authorized to designate a vehicular tour route in coastal New Jersey and to prepare an inventory of sites along the route.  An interpretive program was also mandated to provide for public appreciation, education, understanding and enjoyment of important fish and wildlife habitats, geologic and geographical landforms, cultural resources, and migration routes in coastal New Jersey.  The Secretary was authorized to provide technical assistance, prepare and distribute information, and erect signs along the route.  The trail links national wildlife refuges, national parklands, National Historic Landmarks, and National Register sites with important historic communities, state parks, natural areas, and other resources to tell the story of New Jersey’s role in shaping U.S. history and in providing internationally important habitats for bird and other migrations.

The trail, an affiliated area of the National Park System, is a partnership among the National Park Service; the State of New Jersey through its Department of Environmental Protection, Commerce and Economic Growth Commission, and Pinelands Commission; and many local government and private non-profit partners. Through interpretation of five themes (Maritime History, Coastal Habitats, Wildlife Migration, Relaxation & Inspiration, and Historic Settlements), the trail brings attention to important natural and cultural resources along coastal New Jersey.  The trail demonstrates the potential of  public/private partnerships that allow the National Park Service to meet its core mission of natural and cultural resource preservation along with interpretation and public education in a cost-efficient manner through technical assistance while reducing operational responsibilities. 

Reauthorization of the trail would enable the National Park Service to complete implementation of the trail plan, as supported by the public and our partners.  Without additional time and funding, the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route will be left incomplete.  Implementation of the plan is also critical in building a base of sustainable partners and developing a strategy for the long-term management of the trail. Additionally, commitments to trail partners would go unfulfilled, and many additional natural and cultural resources would not receive the partnership assistance leveraged by the trail. 

The strategic plan authorized in S. 1721 would be an important tool to help the trail develop a long-term management strategy that includes creating a self-sustaining funding mechanism that does not depend indefinitely on operational funding from the National Park Service.  To this end, we would recommend that the title be amended to increase the authorization ceiling by an additional $4 million only instead of eliminating the ceiling altogether.  We also would recommend an amendment to require this strategic plan to be done in partnership with the State.  Also, because the reauthorization extension proposed in section 201 of S. 1721 has already passed (May 2006), we would recommend that section 6(c) of Public Law 100-515 be amended to change “12” to “15” thus extending the reauthorization date until May 2009.

Title III-John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

Title III would reauthorize the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission for an additional 20 years, authorize an additional $10 million over 20 years to support the commission, expand the commission from 19 to 25 members, require an update of the Cultural Heritage and Land Management Plan, and authorize $10 million over 10 years in development funds for the heritage corridor.  The Department does not support Title III of S. 1721 as currently drafted, which is not in keeping with the framework of the heritage area program legislation supported by the Department.

Designated 20 years ago as only the second national heritage area in the country, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor celebrates the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution”– the Blackstone River Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  The commission that has managed the corridor’s programs and projects has made exceptional strides in the preservation and protection of a myriad of resources and in interpreting the rich stories of the Industrial Revolution in our nation.

It was in the Blackstone River Valley at Pawtucket that Samuel Slater, a British immigrant, in concert with Moses Brown developed the first successful textile manufacturing mill that triggered our own industrial revolution, one that continues today. Indeed, the Blackstone River Valley itself became a major center of manufacturing in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries.  Today, largely due to the recognition of the corridor by Congress, and the important work of the commission, the region has seen a rebirth through intelligent and adaptive reuse of previous mills and manufacturing facilities.  As residents came to fully understand the nation-changing history of their region, the stories of its people, and its untapped community and economic potential through historic preservation, pride of place and appreciation of shared heritage soon followed. 

The Department would recommend that Title III, section 303 be amended to only reauthorize the commission for a five-year period, and that the update of the management plan in section 302 include a requirement that the plan identify a successor non-Federal management entity for the corridor, comprised of a board with broad regional representation.  The updated plan should also provide the schedule and manner in which the transition of the management of the corridor will occur from the present federal commission to a new management entity by the end of the five-year reauthorization period.  Finally, the plan should provide information on how the heritage corridor will be financially self-sufficient as its work continues beyond the five-year reauthorization period.

The Department would also recommend that a new subsection be added that requires a Special Resources Study to be completed to determine whether any areas within the corridor meet the criteria for congressional designation as a unit of the National Park System.  We believe the conduct of such a study is timely and appropriate.  It would permit the Secretary to make recommendations to Congress including the future role that National Park Service may play in the preservation and protection of corridor resources. And finally, the Department would recommend that section 304 be amended to strike the authorization for $10 million in development funds in order to be consistent with the appropriations levels of other national heritage areas.

Title IV-Mississippi River National Heritage Area

Title IV would designate the Mississippi River National Heritage Area consisting of all counties and parishes that border the Mississippi River, it would designate a non-profit organization, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, as the management entity, it would require the development of a management plan for the heritage area, and authorize appropriations of $2 million a year not to exceed $20 million overall. The Department does not support enactment of this title, and would recommend that the title be amended to authorize an updated study instead.

The Mississippi River Corridor Study Commission was established by Congress in 1990 to study and determine the feasibility of designating the river corridor as a national heritage area.  The study was completed in 1995 and recommended a national heritage area designation although a number of private residents were vocally against this effort based on concerns of federal control in local issues.  Because this study was completed over 10 years ago before the criteria contained in our heritage area program legislation was developed, there are several key criteria that have not been evaluated including the extent of grassroots civic engagement, a boundary map for the heritage area, environmental compliance, a business plan, and financial commitments from partners.  In addition, the management entity designated in this title was not one of the three groups evaluated in the 1995 study. Also, this title would authorize the heritage area to receive double the normal amount of appropriations for other current national heritage areas and there is no sunset provision for this funding.

The Mississippi River story is one that spans many centuries, cultures, lifeways and economies.  It continues to draw people to its banks, waterways and communities.  A National Park Service unit now exists in the Minnesota region of the Mississippi River, offering a knowledgeable perspective based on their experience within a small section of the river as an active partner.  We recommend the Mississippi River feasibility study now in existence be updated to address current public, compliance, and management needs based on the current heritage area criteria and guidelines. 

Conclusion

Over the past 20 years, the process for designating national heritage areas has evolved from its early stages where Congress was establishing these on an area-by-area basis with no standardized criteria, study requirements or guidelines, to a much more uniform process that still ensures each area retains its unique characteristics, resources, themes, and partnership structure.   The National Park System Advisory Board’s report and the national heritage area program legislation (S. 243) that passed the Senate last year and is supported by the Department, would provide a framework that establishes a national heritage area system, and sets criteria and guidelines for studies and designations to enable all parties to do a better job of evaluating and designating the national heritage areas of the future. Reauthorizing existing heritage areas for 15 or more years without the benefit of an assessment of the accomplishments and needs for sustainability, or supporting new designations that are not based upon the completion of comprehensive feasibility studies that adequately address our criteria, does not help the national heritage area program to succeed and thrive. 

According to the Advisory Board report, national heritage areas are an important direction in conservation and historic preservation and are founded on consensus-based planning, local commitments, and a network of long-term partnerships. As the individual areas approach the termination of their funding authorization, they need to plan for future options to sustain the partnerships and program beyond reauthorizing the area for an additional fifteen years of funding.  Through advance planning, new partnerships can be forged that sustain the heritage area approach and honor the legislative commitment of financial support.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to comment.  This concludes my prepared remarks and I will be happy to answer any questions you or other committee members might have.

STATEMENT OF DONALD W. MURPHY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2037, TO ESTABLISH THE SANGRE DE CRISTO NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA IN THE STATE OF COLORADO, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

JUNE 22, 2006

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 2037, a bill to establish the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area in the State of Colorado.

While a feasibility study has determined that the area is appropriate for designation, we recommend that the Committee defer action on S. 2037 until program legislation is enacted that establishes guidelines and a process for designation of national heritage areas.  The National Park System Advisory Board in its recent report entitled, Charting a Future for Heritage Areas recognized the important role of National Heritage Areas in expanding conservation stewardship and in identifying and preserving significant historic resources.  The report also recognized that National Heritage Areas need a legislative foundation that establishes a clear process for designation, administration, and evaluation.  Last year, the Senate passed national heritage area program legislation that is supported by the Department.  The Administration is working on a similar legislative proposal this year, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress on this very important issue. 

S. 2037 would establish the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (NHA) to recognize the outstanding and nationally significant natural, cultural, scenic and recreational resources found within the San Luis Valley of Colorado. 

S. 2037 contains safeguards to protect private property, including a prohibition on the use of federal funds to acquire real property.  The bill proposes no new restrictions with regard to public use and access to private property. 

S. 2037 designates the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area Board of Directors as the management entity and outlines their duties.  The Board represents a broad spectrum of the valley’s residents, organizations, and agencies that were involved in the planning for the NHA. The bill also authorizes the development of a management plan within three years of enactment and authorizes the use of federal funds to develop and implement that plan.  If the plan is not submitted within three years of enactment of this Act, the Heritage Area becomes ineligible for federal funding until a plan is submitted to the Secretary.  Additionally, the Secretary may, at the request of the management entity, provide technical assistance and enter into cooperative agreements with other public and private entities.

Exceeding 7,700 feet in elevation, the San Luis Valley is flanked by the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains and the geology and climatology within the valley have contributed to the formation of America’s tallest Sand Dunes, part of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. 

The Rio Grande, the second largest river in North America, has its headwaters within the proposed NHA and twists its way through the San Luis Valley on a 1,900-mile journey, offering outstanding scenic and recreational opportunities, including trout fishing, rafting, and tubing.  The availability of water in this largely arid and alpine environment tends to concentrate the abundant wildlife in highly visible and public preserves creating exceptional wildlife and bird watching opportunities. 

The area’s rich natural resources include one National Park, three National Wildlife Refuges, one National Forest, two National Forest Wilderness Areas, six Areas of Critical Environmental Concern administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and 15 State Wildlife Areas.   The cultural resources associated with the proposed national heritage are equally impressive. The abundant natural resources of the San Luis Valley may have been inhabited by native peoples including the Ute, Navajo, Apache, Tiwa, Tewa, Comanche, Kiowa, and Arapaho for more than 12,000 years.

More recently, the San Luis Valley served as a crossroads for European exploration and settlement.  Spanish explorers and Franciscan priests first entered the valley in 1776 in an attempt to strengthen Spain’s weak hold on her remote empire.  Captain Zebulon Montgomery Pike camped in the shadows of the Sangre de Cristo Range along the banks of the Conejos River and was captured by Spanish soldiers, arrested for trespassing on Spanish soil, and escorted to Mexico for questioning.   His campsite is commemorated as a National Historic Landmark along with 22 other properties that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Extensive Mexican land grants triggered the initial settlement of the area as families from northern New Mexico found enough water to support their sheep and water their crops.  The proposed NHA contains the oldest continuously occupied town in Colorado, (San Luis), the oldest parish (Our Lady of Guadalupe), the oldest church (San Acacio), and the first water right (San Luis People’s Ditch).

The Hispanic cultural traditions associated with this first wave of European settlement can still be found in this isolated and predominately agricultural region of Colorado where a version of 17th century Spanish is still spoken by about 35% of the population. 

The feasibility of recognizing the area’s impressive cultural and natural resources as a national heritage area was the subject of a study produced in 2005 by two grassroots organizations, the Los Amigos Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway, in conjunction with the Sangre de Cristo NHA Steering Committee.

The feasibility study was largely based upon the results of a symposium held in the fall of 2002 where scientists, historians, and anthropologists from interested colleges as well as local ranchers, community leaders, and tribal elders presented papers on the history, natural resources and local culture of the San Luis Valley.  The feasibility study identified four interpretive themes for the NHA and addressed the ten interim criteria that the National Park Service has developed for designation of national heritage areas.  The study concluded that the area’s cultural and natural resources met those criteria.

All local governments within the proposed area have passed resolutions in support of the establishment of the proposed NHA.  Moreover, State and federal land managers within the proposed NHA have expressed a willingness to work with the management entity in accomplishing their congressionally authorized conservation and education responsibilities.

At such time as S. 2037 moves forward, we recommend that the bill be amended to remove paragraph 5(d)(2) which would require 100 percent federal funding prior to completion of the management plan and to change the termination authority in Section 10 to expire 15 years after enactment.  In addition, we would like to work with the Subcommittee to ensure that the management planning process is coordinated with the affected federal land management entities.  These amendments would make S. 2037 consistent with other, similar, national heritage area establishment bills.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

STATEMENT OF DONALD W. MURPHY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 2645, TO ESTABLISH THE JOURNEY THROUGH HALLOWED GROUND NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

June 22, 2006


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2645, a bill to establish the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.  The Department does not support enactment of this bill at this time.

Before a national heritage area is designated by Congress, a comprehensive feasibility study should be completed that evaluates an area using criteria developed by the Department and Congress.  Although the study undertaken by the Journey Though Hallowed Ground Partnership is a good beginning step in looking at the resources in the region, it does not fully address the required criteria for designation of national heritage areas.  We believe the bill should not be enacted until an adequate feasibility study is completed that yields the necessary information to demonstrate that the proposed national heritage area meets the criteria for designation.  We also believe that individual bills proposing to designate new national heritage areas should be deferred until program legislation is enacted by Congress.  

The proposed Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area would span a region of approximately 175 miles along Route 15 and part of Route 20, from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania through Maryland and West Virginia to Charlottesville, Virginia.  The region is rich in historic and natural resources including the homes of Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Dwight David Eisenhower, and includes significant Revolutionary and Civil War sites.  Revolutionary War sites include Willow Grove, the temporary headquarters of Generals Wayne and Muhlenberg, Point of Fork Arsenal, Castle Hill, home of colonial leader Dr. Thomas Walker, and the Hessian Barracks, used as a prison for British soldiers.  Civil War sites include the battlefields of Gettysburg, Monocacy, Antietam, Brandy Station, and Manassas, among others.  The region is also crossed by numerous historic trails and byways relating to the Civil War and other scenic resources.  All told, there are an estimated 7,000 buildings in the area listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 13 National Historic Landmarks, and 2 World Heritage Sites.

S. 2645 would establish the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area and designate the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership (Partnership) as the local management entity.  The Partnership is a nonprofit corporation that has conducted a significant number of public meetings, an important requirement for evaluating local support for the designation of a national heritage area.  The bill prescribes the duties of the management entity, provides for the Secretary and the Partnership to enter into a compact, requires the development of a management plan by the Partnership to be approved by the Secretary, and includes a 15-year authorization for up to $1 million dollars per year not to exceed a total of $10 million.

Both Congress and the Department have long agreed that a national heritage area designation should be predicated on the completion of a feasibility study that adequately addresses criteria to determine that a proposed national heritage area will enjoy not only public support, but other equally important factors that are necessary for the future success of the area, such as the financial capability to carry out the management plan.

The Department has had the opportunity to review a feasibility study undertaken by the Partnership.  We find that the study, while a good first step, fails to address many of the criteria and does not permit an informed decision regarding the feasibility of designating this proposed national heritage area.  The report does not adequately address proposed heritage area themes, does not contain any information regarding integrity of resources, nor does it provide an in-depth analysis of management alternatives for the region’s resources.  The study does not provide any information regarding financial planning and capability, potential sources of matching funds, or specific local commitments to ensure the viability of the programs and activities normally associated with heritage areas.  Of concern, too, is the absence of any defined boundary within which federal funding would be targeted.

In addition, the Department has several concerns with some of the language contained in S. 2645.  First, section 4 of the bill calls for the Secretary and the Partnership to enter into a compact to delineate the boundaries of the heritage area, discuss heritage area goals and objectives, and explain the proposed approach to conservation and interpretation. Although compacts were found in many of the older national heritage areas designated, over the past 10 years they have been replaced by a requirement to complete a feasibility study that includes this information.  We strongly believe that these tasks are key components of a feasibility study and must precede designation.

Second, we note that section 5(a)(2)(D) provides that funds authorized under the legislation to the management entity may be used to acquire lands and interests in land, while section 5(e) prohibits the use of such funds for acquisition of real property or any interest therein.  We recommend that section 5(a)(2)(D) be removed from the bill, since it is inconsistent with past heritage area statutes, which prohibit the use of federal funds authorized for heritage areas to be used for land acquisition.

The Department has consistently taken the position that proposed national heritage areas follow the proven path of those achieving designation in recent years.  A recent National Park System Advisory Board report Charting a Future for National Heritage Areas recognized the important role of national heritage areas in expanding conservation stewardship and in identifying and preserving significant historic resources.  The report also recognized that national heritage areas need a legislative foundation that sets specific criteria for designation demonstrated by the completion of an adequate feasibility study. The national heritage area program legislation (S. 243) that passed the Senate last year and is supported by the Department outlined the steps followed for success as a national heritage area. That path is always charted by the completion of a comprehensive feasibility study that provides the Department and Congress with an evaluation of the financial, programmatic, and tangible community support and commitment capabilities of the local management entity.  Without information regarding those key ingredients, we are unable to support this bill.  We are, however, fully prepared to provide advice to the Partnership to assist it in completing a national heritage area feasibility study that meets our professional standards and provides Congress with the necessary information and assessment upon which to base its decision regarding designation in the future.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony and I am prepared to answer any questions that you or other members of the committee might have at this time.