John Day Fossil Beds
Administrative History
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Chapter Three:

Authorization and establishment

The House Subcommittee on National Parks and Recreation lost little time in approving Ullman's legislation to authorize the monument as part of HR l3157 after the second session of the 93rd Congress began in January 1974. In addition to John Day Fossil Beds, this omnibus bill included provisions to authorize five national historic sites: Clara Barton (Maryland), Knife River Indian Villages (North Dakota), Springfield Armory (Massachusetts), Tuskegee Institute (Alabama), and Martin Van Buren (New York). It cleared the Subcommittee on January 29 and then went to the full House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs for further consideration. [173] Ullman waited until June l3 for that body's approval because the committee had been considering a strip mining bill for most of the first half of 1974. [174]

When it came time for the bill to be reported, committee chairman James Haley said that Interior failed to deliver on its promise of a recommendation on national monument status for the John Day Fossil Beds. In a mild rebuke, Haley spoke for the committee in asserting its belief that Congress has the function of determining whether John Day Fossil Beds merited inclusion in the National Park System. [175] The committee reported favorably on the proposed monument, but also made reference to the Secretary of the Interior's Advisory Board recommendation in 1971 in substantiating this finding. HR 13157 passed the House as reported by voice vote on August 19. [176]

Once the bill reached the Senate, it took less than a month for a subcommittee hearing to be scheduled. All of the other prospective parks in HR l3157 had previously passed the Senate except for the John Day Fossil Beds, so the hearing had a single focus. It took place on September 13 before the seven member Senate Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation. Only three witnesses gave testimony in a meeting chaired by Senator Alan Bible of Nevada. The first witness, Douglas P. Wheeler, represented Interior and supported all of the areas proposed for authorization except John Day Fossil Beds. When Bible questioned him about the department's objection to this area, Wheeler replied that its resources already enjoyed protection as state parks thereby precluding the need for direct federal involvement. [177]

One of the subcommittee's members, Mark Hatfield, arrived after Wheeler voiced his objection to the proposed monument. Bible summarized the situation for him, whereupon Hatfield mentioned that he and his colleague from Oregon, Bob Packwood, had previously sponsored legislation to authorize John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in the Senate. Hatfield also referred to Ullman's sponsorship of the legislation in the House as evidence of support from the Oregon congressional delegation. After Bible cited the report by the Secretary's Advisory Board and the State of Oregon's backing for a national monument, Hatfield gave the gist of what the subcommittee had to consider:

Senator HATFIELD. Mr. Chairman, l think it comes down to a question before this committee as to the proper appreciation of a unique area that has been determined by many different studies to be very unique.

Second, the State of Oregon has in good faith acted to support these proposals and very frankly it seems to me that the bills as drafted both in the House and Senate by Congressman Ullman and Senator Packwood and myself recognize the considered judgment and study of people within the State and others as well, that this is the place and the way in which it is going to be best preserved and provided proper utilization for the public.

I would like to have the chance to read the objections and to know a little more in detail before l attempt to respond directly to those objections raised by the witness this morning.

Senator BIBLE. They are very short and they are over on the third page and you can read them while we are calling Senator Packwood.

Just as l stated l think you will find it a correct summary. But l would only have one further question of the witness and that would be this:

It seems to me that with both Senators from Oregon strongly in favor of this bill, that there is a reasonably good chance that the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument will be included in the bill. I would like to forecast that. [Laughter.]

Senator BIBLE. The question l would ask of you is this: If the committee should join in that type of thinking and put it in the omnibus bill, what would you recommend to the President as to signing or vetoing the omnibus bill?

Mr. WHEELER. l can see no reason to recommend a veto in light of the other items contained in that omnibus bill.

Senator BIBLE. That is the type of question and answer l wanted. Thank you very much. [Laughter.] [178]

This exchange virtually precluded the need for Packwood's testimony, which he submitted for the record without reading it. [179] Packwood did, however, speak to a couple of issues before Bible closed the hearing. He pointed out that the House-passed version of HR l3157 limited fee acquisition at John Day Fossil Beds to l,000 acres except by donation or exchange, whereas S 2168 (the bill which he and Hatfield introduced in 1973) had been open-ended. Bible then asked him whether he could accept the House version of the legislation, and Packwood had no difficulty in saying yes. Hatfield then joined Packwood in contesting the idea that existing state parks provided adequate protection for the fossils. Since much of this resource still lay in private ownership adjacent to state and federal lands, they argued for a single administrative unit to consolidate fossil-bearing lands within authorized boundaries of the proposed monument. [180]

After HR 13157 met with the subcommittee's approval, the full Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs unanimously ordered a favorable report on October 1. [181] At this point the Senate's report read very much like the earlier House report, except that reference to Interior's position on the John Day Fossil Beds legislation had been omitted. [182] The bill passed the full Senate on October 8, and it secured final congressional approval just nine days later. With the President's signature on HR 13157 now virtually assured, Ullman praised Hatfield for his efforts in guiding this legislation through the Senate. [183]

As signed by President Gerald Ford on October 26, 1974, P.L. 93-486 authorized the NPS to establish a John Day Fossil Beds National Monument consisting of 14,402 acres. Establishment, however, could not take place without donation of the three state parks. [184] Once an activation memorandum had been routed from Washington to Rutter, the NPS began negotiations for property transfers with the state. [185] State Parks Superintendent David Talbot recommended that the Oregon State Transportation Commission (the highway commission's successor) approve these transfers without cost on November 18, something which they approved a week later. [186]

Talbot wanted to give the deeds to the NPS at a ceremony in December, but technical aspects of the transfer delayed state approval of the deed drafts until June 1975. [187] During this six month period, the state decided to put a reversionary clause in the deeds, should the state park land cease to be used for national monument purposes. [188] Seeing no alternative short of a legislative act by the state for direct transfer without restriction, the NPS agreed to this condition. [189]

The deeds formally changed hands on July 1, 1975, at Lewis and Clark College in Portland. Ullman and Governor Robert Straub officiated at a brief ceremony which preceded formal dedication of nearby Tryon Creek State Park. Straub turned the deeds over to Ullman, who signed them as a representative of the federal government. [190]

Establishment of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument had to wait, however, for a Federal Register notice from the Department of the Interior to be published. Although the NPS notified the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs of its intent to establish the monument on June 27, the Federal Register notice did not appear for another three months. [191] Once it did on September 24, the somewhat anti-climactic establishment became effective fourteen days later on October 8, 1975. [192]

Blue Basin
John C. Merriam named Blue Basin for "a veritable labyrinth of canons, gulch and caves cut into the soft blue rock of the middle John Day beds by the heavy rains. The coloring of these beds is frequently most wonderful and of the most delicate shades. Passing along the bottom of any of the larger canons, the wilderness of finely sculpted and delicately tinted peaks and pinnacles about frequently causes one involuntarily to pause and gaze, astonished that even nature could produce such magnificent architecture."
(photo by the author, 1992)

End of Chapter 3

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Last Updated: 30-Apr-2002