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Statement before the
Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands

House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs
Presented by Loretta Neumann, Washington Representative

Hearing on H.R. 3964
National Park System Review Board

May 10, 1988

Mr. Chairman, the Society for American Archaeology is pleased to present testimony on H.R. 3964, to establish a National Park System Review Board. The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) is an international scholarly and professional association of professional and avocational archaeologists concerned about the discovery, interpretation and protection of America's archaeological heritage.

H.R. 3964 would establish a 3-member, Presidentially appointed National Park System Review Board to review the programs and activities of the National Park Service (NPS) and existing and proposed national park system units. The board would submit an independent report to the President and the Congress, including budget recommendations. It would be aided by a staff composed of a chief, secretary, legal counsel, 5 investigators and 10 support staff.

Also, the bill stipulates that the NPS Director would be appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate to serve a 5-year term, subject to removal only for inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance. The Interior Secretary would delegate to the Director the administration of the National Park System and other authorities exercised by the Director as of the date of enactment. The Director would not be subject to the direction of officials in the Interior Department, nor would any information requested by Congressional Committees be subject to review or approval by any other administrative authority.

Recommendations We applaud the intent of this bill, to "de-politicize" the National Park Service by making NPS, in effect, an independent agency within the Interior Department and by establishing an ongoing review board to serve as a watch dog and public conscience for the Service. The Society would, however, like to make a few suggestions for technical changes to make the bill more effective in protecting archaeological sites and other historic resources and in enhancing archaeological and historic preservation outreach programs administered by the Service.

First, the Society suggests that the functions of the review board be more clearly specified to include those NPS programs and activities which are not related directly to the management of the National Park System but which do so much to protect archeological resources on other public and private lands. These include not only direct archaeology and historic preservation "outreach" programs (e.g., Historic Preservation Fund, National Register programs and activities of the Departmental consulting Archaeologist), but also other related activities which directly and indirectly benefit archaeology and historic preservation (e.g., Land and Water conservation Fund and other conservation and recreation technical assistance programs).

Second, the Society suggests that the activities of the Board itself could be carried out on a less than full time basis, and that the number of support staff could be reduced somewhat. Given the tight budget and personnel constraints that face all Federal agencies, we prefer that more positions be allocated to line agencies than to ancillary, advisory functions.

Third, at a minimum, the board's rank should be at least one level lower than the NPS Director's, lest it appear they are equal not only in function but also in authority. The staff should be professionally competent, and substantive qualifications should be appropriately included--not only archaeologists but also historians, scientists and recreation resource experts.

Fourth, the Society recommends that nps itself be elevated within Interior, so that all of its functions will have increased visibility and authority. To do this, the Director should be elevated to a Level IV position. Under the Director, we recommend creation of three Deputy Directors, all at the Level IV position--Deputy for the National Park System; Deputy for Archaeology and Historic Preservation and Deputy for conservation and Recreation. The titles could also be modified somewhat; for example, the current NPS Director could be renamed (and rescheduled to meet civil service requirements) the "Administrator" of the "National Parks and Conservation Administration", the term "conservation" connoting the dual NPS responsibility for historic preservation and recreation/conservation programs.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, SAA believes that the key element that H.R. 3964 could provide is a high level of focus and authority for NPS's three major program areas. This would be consistent with the needs identified by the Preservation Forum, an ad-hoc coalition of national groups (including the SAA) involved in and concerned with historic preservation in the United States. Most important, it is consistent with the mission and mandates of the National Park Service itself, which is charged with protecting the nation's natural, cultural and recreational resources for present and future generations to enjoy.

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify on this important legislation.

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Mr. Vento. Thank you, Mr. Oaks. We will get back with a couple of questions in a moment.

But first let's hear from Ms. Nellie Longsworth, president of Preservation Action.

Ms. LONGSWORTH. I feel like "survival of the fittest."

I would first of all like to thank you for the good words that you gave before the Appropriations Committee a couple of weeks ago, because there is a very strong factor that adequate funding for all of these programs would be one thing that would help, not the only thing, but I would tell you it is very exciting to have your leadership not only coming through as chairman of the authorizing committee but going before the Appropriations Subcommittee as well, and making your deep-felt statement that we get adequate funding for the programs right there in front of the people who have the chance to do it. We want to thank you for that.

One of the things that our organization represents is basically what happens at the local level, the nonprofit, private organization level. One of the major things that we have seen happening over the past 20 years is a change in what is causing the problem and what is causing destruction of the historic resources.

For the first 20 years, one of our biggest concerns was the Federal Government's action. Where there was Federal funding, it seemed that the destruction of the historic resources were coming down around us. Whether it was urban renewal, whether it was a number of other federal programs, we had great segments of historic resources being destroyed.

This led to a strengthening of the National Register—the whole designation process that became very important nationally—that deals with resources of Federal or of national, State, and local significance, and it also has led to a strengthening of the 106 process.

Again, we were finally able to bring somewhat the Federal Government into line and at least have mitigation for those resources we felt were very important.

What is happening now is that there are new pressures happening. I think you are well aware of these. The pressures are coming not just from Government funded projects, but they are also coming from private actions on privately owned lands. We are seeing the likes of a Manassas. We are seeing the Waterfords. We are seeing Jobbers Canyon.

This really suggests a new crisis for historic resources that really can only be resolved if there is a strong national commitment to the environment and to the National Park Service and a National Park Service that really can be a leader. We are not only going to need more law, we are going to need more funding, and if we are going to have any resources-because our resources are smaller, in many cases, and they are very apt to be picked up by a developer or to be very subject to being lost.

We applaud the bill. We, Preservation Action, focus on an agency that through your initiative can bring more impact for a larger number of Americans. We also share concern that professionalism and a broadening of our recommendations that there should be professional requirements for the people who will serve the Director. We have heard a couple of people say today that the review board should not just be three people, or the advisory board should not be three.

But we have envisioned on our own, looking through the Forum, a tripartite arrangement which was described somewhat by Larry Oaks, that would give increased visibility to each of the parts of the service and would allow the conservation, recreation, historic preservation, and archaeology concerns to work united in a common purpose.

I want to tell one little story here because I do think that the external programs sometimes are very far removed from the historic resources within the parks. I had the pleasure, with Larry and a couple of other people, Robin Winks also, last summer of going out to Yellowstone and spending 8 hours talking to the directors of the major parks.

We talked about cultural resources and the importance of historic resources within the parks. Subsequent to that, I ended up at Teton National Park, and I have been out there for 5 years as a college student during the summers. I went to look at the historic resources in Teton National Park. I found, No. 1, that the only historic resource which was designated by a sign, Cunningham's Cabin, was in absolutely terrible condition, almost impossible to find.

When I talked to the director of the park, he explained to me that they were taking the park back to a more pristine, natural condition, that this was to be the animals, the natural environment and the mountains.

I was very concerned because I think part of the record of what happened in the Grand Tetons is also the settlements. It is also the dude ranching. It is the cabins. I found that there was a separation between those of us who were considered external and the park directors who in fact were having the responsibility for historic resources in the park.

I am following up on that because I think they are going to have an opportunity with the Mormon road in that area to be able to save some resources. I think their inclination is to let the resources be neglected and be demolished eventually by neglect because they become unsafe.

So, I think that the idea of bringing all of these resources, external and internal, particularly in our area, is very important, and the idea of having a director, of having the park operations—the cultural, the historic, and the archeological resources-in one division and the natural resources in another is very important.

We understand the sharing of responsibility between the private sector and the public sector. We understand the sharing between Federal, State, and local governments.

But we know that without strong Federal commitment and strong leadership to cultural resources, that there are not going to be resources that survive the pressures, as I mentioned, those now of avaricious private developers who seem to be popping up everywhere, are going to prove our downfall and we are going to have a generation of Americans who won't care about the parks and will not care about their history, because we did not take the opportunity that we have today to do something about a situation that seems to be declining and is fragile at best.

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