Eighty Years in the Making
A Legislative History of Voyageurs National Park
NPS Logo



It is highly unlikely that anyone was prepared for what occurred during the two-day House Subcommittee hearings on the proposal for Voyageurs National Park. Toward the close of the second day it appeared to some that the campaign for Voyageurs could be lost primarily because of the unyielding position taken by Governor Levander on two issues: donation of state lands for inclusion in the park; and public hunting. It is interesting that even though the subcommittee heard from more than forty witnesses, seven emerged as key figures during the procedures. Governor Levander, Congressman Blatnik, Elmer Andersen, Sigurd Olson, Stanley Holmquist, Thomas Newcome, and NPS Director George Hartzog were determinant witnesses. For the subcommittee, Chairman Taylor of North Carolina, James McClure of Idaho, John Kyl of Iowa, Wayne Aspinall of Colorado and Morris Udall played active roles from Arizona.

Congressman Blatnik, first to testify, identified three areas in his bill where he believed there was "quite a difference of opinion." First, Blatnik and Governor Levander strongly supported the inclusion of the Crane Lake Recreation Area, even though the official NPS proposal did not. Activities including public hunting and commercial fishing in the proposed park were a second area of disagreement. Blatnik cited federal payments to local units of government in lieu of taxes on property acquired for the park as the third issue where opinions were far apart.

To these three disputed points identified by Blatnik should be added two more that the congressman hadn't anticipated as problems before the hearings. Governor Levander insisted that the federal government acquire the state's school trust fund lands within the proposed park by eminent domain (condemnation), determine a reasonable market value and then reimburse the trust fund account. In short, he felt the federal government should simply buy the trust fund lands. [368] The second point of disagreement Blatnik hadn't anticipated was repeated reference by committee members to a national recreation area as an alternative to national park designation for Voyageurs. [369]

It became very clear in the early stages of the hearings that the subcommittee was determined to hear witnesses state their positions on the set of issues just cited. Members would frequently remind witnesses of the standards required for national park designation and where provisions in the Blatnik bill were at variance with these standards.

Following Blatnik's opening statement, the first four individuals to testify were members of the Minnesota congressional delegation, Karth, Zwach, Fraser and Quie. Each was eager to voice support for the Blatnik bill and to reinforce Blatnik's oft-repeated claim of strong bipartisan support for the park in Minnesota. However, the committee was more interested in learning how they stood on certain provisions of the Blatnik bill that ran counter to the criteria for national park status.

When Representative Karth voiced support for Blatnik's provision for hunting and trapping, Representative Kyl said, "I think it only fair to inform my colleagues at this point that we are not going to permit hunting or commercial fishing or trapping and some of these other things in a national park." [370] Emphasizing that the committee was not likely to break precedent on these matters, he asked Karth and Blatnik if they would still favor establishment of a national park if, one, hunting and trapping were prohibited and two, if payments in lieu of taxes was not provided for in the legislation. Blatnik quickly responded by saying, "If this is the decision and the judgement of the majority of the committee, of course we shall abide by the decision." [371] Blatnik's response to Kyle on both issues can be interpreted as a quick retreat or outright abandonment from the position on both matters in his park bill.

On the same subject, Representative Aspinall asked Quie if he wanted a national recreation area or a national park. Quie responded in much the same manner as Blatnik—a national park. By agreeing to abide by the decision of the committee on hunting and trapping, Blatnik was no doubt attempting to set the matter aside and get on with other less controversial topics. Nevertheless, the hunting issue would surface repeatedly during the hearings. The most ardent supporters of the public hunting provision were Governor Levander and Conservation Commissioner Leirfallom. Both, at least in the eyes of the friends of Voyageurs attending the hearings, contributed mightily to bringing the park cause to its lowest point during the second day of hearings when they vehemently defended it as the proper wildlife management tool for the proposed park. For park supporters the first hours of the hearings were not promising and didn't get much better as the proceedings continued.

NPS Director Hartzog, accompanied by Midwest Regional Director Fagergren, was the next witness. When Hartzog finished with a brief description of the proposed park area, he moved on to what he called "substantive amendments" of the Blatnik bill that he said would remove inconsistencies with NPS policy for national parks. Hartzog identified these inconsistencies as public hunting, uncontrolled commercial fishing, or control of fishing by the state rather than the secretary of the Interior Department. [372] At this point, Aspinall broke in with a comment to the effect that the NPS might have given some advice and aid early on. This implied that, if they had, the inconsistencies might have been removed before the bill came to the committee for review. [373] He also seemed upset by the fact that the NPS had taken so long to formally state their position on the park.

The tone of the hearings didn't improve, at least in the minds of those in support of the park, when Representative James McClure took his turn with Hartzog. McClure pursued a line of questioning that at times proved embarrassing for the director. Reflecting on this part of the hearing, John Kawamoto said it was an awkward time for him as well as Hartzog. By almost any measure, Kawamoto was the most knowledgeable person in the NPS on Voyageurs. But instead of being seated next to the director where he could have been of direct assistance to Hartzog with specific information on Voyageurs, he was in a row behind. [374]

McClure, a skillful interrogator, began a line of questioning that seemed to have been taken directly from the opposition's "play book." It didn't help that Hartzog, presumably because of the demands of other park business, wasn't able to get into the details of the Voyageurs project until late in the planning process. The late 1960s, when the campaign for the park was in full swing, were demanding years for the administration of the NPS. Redwood and North Cascades National Parks came into the system in 1968 after difficult and protracted struggles. In addition, three national lakeshore units on the Great Lakes were added between 1966 and 1970 including Pictured Rocks, Sleeping Bear Dunes and Apostle Islands.

Hartzog's initial attitude toward the Voyageurs project should also be considered at this time. For example, Kawamoto said, during the time when NPS personnel were developing the official position on Voyageurs, there were some doubts as to whether Hartzog would even go along with national park status because the water levels of the proposed park's major lakes were manipulated by dams. Two dams were constructed at either end of Rainy Lake early in the century to accommodate electric power generation for the wood products industry at International Falls, Minnesota and Fort Frances, Ontario. Traditionalists in the NPS, and there were many at this time, were concerned that in the rush for new parks, long-standing standards for entry into the system could be compromised. [375]

Hartzog eventually approved the national park designation for Voyageurs, but not before staff professionals argued that these were natural lakes with minor fluctuations in levels and not in the same category as reservoirs formed by simply damming up rivers. Also, even though the Kabetogama Peninsula had been logged and some parts burned over and was not therefore in a "pristine" condition, the landform hadn't changed and was still basic to the area. Kawamoto said that all of these factors were laid out and that the primary turning point or argument made for a national park was that, "We needed to look beyond today, perhaps, say, a hundred years from now or beyond and [look at] what condition this area would be [in] if set aside as a national park. The condition being that it would be rather unique by that time. The natural vegetation would be reestablished, and there wouldn't be any more cutting. Sustained yield would be gone, and then the appearance would be a natural appearance." [376]

National Park Service professionals and many supporters frequently emphasized the importance of preservation and restoration of natural resources as a long-term goal at Voyageurs. They also stressed the cultural significance of the voyageurs during the fur trade period and the importance of Rainy Lake, which was the focus of several canoe routes used by the voyageurs on their way to the interior of the North American continent. Status as a national park would bring the last remaining stretch of the border lakes region on the American side under federal protection. No doubt Kawamoto would have been able to bring these attributes to the attention of Hartzog had he been at the witness table with the director.

McClure continued to ask for reasons why this area was unique when the geology and vegetation wasn't that dissimilar from that in the BWCA to the east. This of course, was the argument frequently made by the timber people and anti-federal opponents who said they were for a national park but on existing federal land at an alternative site in the federal corridor. At one point McClure asked, "Why should we go out and buy up the only substantial private property, at a cost of $20 million, if all we are seeking to do is change present use from multiple use into a narrower use?" [377] At another point he said, "I submit that the real reason you are looking to this is that it is easier to fight private owners than it is to fight the Forest Service." [378]

Near the close of his lengthy question period, Representative McClure said to Hartzog and to a colleague who had asked him if he would yield, that he wanted to pursue just one step further. "I just want to get on record what I think some of the real issues are." [379] In a display of wry humor, Hartzog replied with the overstatement of the day. "It is always a great delight to respond to the gentleman's questions." [380]

Several subcommittee members tried to get Hartzog to elaborate on the Crane Lake inclusion, which was part of Blatnik's legislation. When Representative Taylor asked if the NPS supported the Department of Agriculture's recommendation that the Crane Lake Recreation Area be removed from the park bill, Hartzog simply replied, "Those are my directions, yes sir." [381] At a later point in the hearing, Representative Kyl asked Hartzog the same question, and he answered without elaboration, that the NPS deferred to the Department of Agriculture on the issue. His abrupt responses to these questions seemed to signal a reluctance to discuss the matter at all. Even though his department had originally recommended that the Crane Lake Recreation Area be a part of the proposed park (1963 draft plan) and had justified that position in its draft proposal, he was now required to express the Interior Department's 1970 position that it be removed from the Blatnik bill, thus acceding to his department's desire not to offend the USFS.

For its part, the VNPA continued to follow its policy of staying away from the Crane Lake issue for fear of losing the entire project. They offered no formal support for its inclusion. Therefore, making the argument for its retention in the legislation would be the sole responsibility of its author, Congressman John Blatnik.

Blatnik got that opportunity when he asked for and received permission for time to address the committee solely on the issue of the Crane Lake addition. He began by tracing the route of the voyageurs on a map through Crane, Sand Point, Namakan and Rainy Lakes and noting the physical characteristics of the entire proposed park area. "It is an integrated, interrelated part of the same geographic and historic area—all the more reason why pure logic would dictate that it be as one entity. All aspects of the Crane Lake area—historical, geographic, physical, topographic and location—urge that this area and Kabetogama be an organic entity under one administration." [382] He assured the committee that it was never his intent to bring the two agencies in dispute over his proposal. "Our sole objective was to make a relatively small piece of an area into a park. In every sense of the word it would be a better park with Crane Lake added to it." [383] He concluded by saying that it would be impossible to manage the park economically or efficiently with two federal agencies.

When Blatnik finished his defense of the Crane Lake inclusion, Representative Taylor asked him if he would still support the bill if the committee saw fit to follow the recommendation of the USFS and the NPS and delete the Crane Lake Recreation Area. Blatnik said he would but, "In all earnestness, knowing that area as I have for forty years, also having a little experience with legislative and executive reorganization, of which I am chairman, I hope the Congress with its good judgement, and particularly this committee with its wide range over many years of experience in very controversial and emotionally supercharged matters, will include the Crane Lake area. . ." [384]

This was the kind of statement that his House colleagues well understood. This congressman, in whose district the park would be located, wanted the park boundaries as described in his bill. He might be willing to compromise on some points in the legislation, and he might say in a public hearing that he would accept a park without the Crane Lake addition, but the tone of his voice and the logic of his arguments, no doubt made in private conversation before the hearings, said otherwise. The House and Senate committees bought Blatnik's arguments, which stressed the physical unity of the area, including the Crane Lake addition, and the efficiency of single-agency administration. They also desired to accommodate a highly respected colleague. The Crane Lake Recreation Area became part of the final authorizing legislation.

Some individuals who were close to the park issue during the 1960s have been curious as to why Blatnik, a cautious politician, would seemingly jeopardize the chances for Voyageurs by arguing so persuasively for inclusion of the Crane Lake addition. One can speculate there had to be several reasons and they were compelling in Blatnik's view. He was reaffirming what had been implied in the first unpublished report by the NPS study team in 1963—that the border lakes region west of the BWCA should be managed by a single agency and that preservation of the historic voyageurs route and the scenic and physical character of the region should be of primary concern. He believed that the NPS was best suited to carry out that objective.

Blatnik had certainly heard this argument quite often from his very close friend and respected advisor, Sigurd Olson. Olson had always hoped for a "seamless" management policy for this entire area. Blatnik, the practical politician, saw the value of efficiency and uniformity through public ownership and single-agency management.

In retrospect, the decision to include the Crane Lake addition in the final legislative version for Voyageurs was a wise one. Apart from the environmental advantage of keeping natural systems intact and under one agency, its inclusion provided definite political advantages as well. As the public debate over the entire park issue dragged on, it must have become apparent to Representative Blatnik that to leave the Crane Lake area out of the park for possible addition at a later date, a common suggestion at the time, would only result in another period of protracted and divisive debate. Old wounds would be opened and angry confrontations would be the lot of yet another generation in the border communities. [385]

Near the close of discussion on the Crane Lake issue, Blatnik asked Chairman Taylor for time to present an argument in favor of the hunting and fishing provision in his bill. By this time Blatnik surely realized that this committee would never allow public hunting in Voyageurs if it were to be a national park. But Blatnik apparently felt very strongly about this issue. He placed his argument in historical context by arguing, "Hunting was basic to the voyageur, for survival and for trade. It was part of the commerce of those days...Commercial fishing was basic. The hook and the seine and the net were all introduced by the voyageurs to the Indians." [386] He asked that the committee give hunting and commercial fishing a trial run—give it a five-or-so-year period to help make Voyageurs a year-round park.

Congressman Kyl's response to Blatnik's appeal was brief and to the point. "I just want to say once more it is just not possible and it is not going to happen." [387] Kyl and Taylor again mentioned a national recreation area as an alternative to a national park if hunting and trapping were so important to the area. Blatnik responded by reaffirming his commitment to national park designation. He thanked the committee for allowing him to present his case for hunting and said, "I hope we let it rest at that." [388]

The committee came away from the hearings with a very clear message from Congressman Blatnik. He had moved away from public hunting as a requirement for his support. He would look to the state instead of the federal government for help with the in lieu of taxes issue. And he wanted a national park, not a national recreation area.

The first day of subcommittee hearings also included testimony from three state legislators who held key leadership positions in the legislature. They would also play important roles in 1971 when that body debated the state land donation legislation, a requirement Congress attached to the authorizing legislation. State Senator O.A. Sundet, chairman of the Senate Public Domain Committee, testified for his committee which urged that Congress postpone the park legislation until the state legislature met in early 1971. He contended that there was insufficient information on which the legislature could base its decision on matters related to Voyageurs.

Senator Sundet was followed by Representative Thomas Newcome, chairman of the Minnesota Resources Commission, a research and advisory agency created by statute. Newcome said the MRC was working on a report to advise the legislature on what the state must do to implement a national park in Minnesota should the Congress pass authorizing legislation for Voyageurs. The MRC had on two previous occasions endorsed the concept of the park, and he personally favored its establishment. On the question of donating state land to the NPS to meet the conditions of the authorizing legislation, Newcome felt the legislature would comply. When Senate Rules Committee Chairman Stanley Holmquist testified, he said that in his judgement, "The state of Minnesota, either through private funds or through legislative action, would be glad to accommodate the Voyageurs National Park, so that the property would be contributed on that basis." [389]

It was about 6 p.m. when Chairman Taylor adjourned the first day of hearings. He and his colleagues could take some satisfaction in knowing that all of the "sticky" issues (public hunting, Crane Lake addition, payment in lieu of taxes, and state land donation) had been considered. In every case, key people like Hartzog, Blatnik and the two state legislators, Newcome and Holmquist, had provided assurances that they were willing to work out solutions so that Voyageurs could become the state's first national park.

Park supporters in the hearing room took some comfort in this display of cooperation and resolve for the park, but they were also surprised at the close questioning and somewhat unfriendly tone used by several congressmen, particularly Representative McClure. They left the hearing room with some misgivings about the way things had gone and hoped for a better experience on the second day. But it didn't happen. Some were stunned and disconsolate by the events of the following day.

The hearings resumed on Friday, July 17 to hear testimony from the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners, Governor Levander, representatives from the wood products industry, and others stating positions for and against the park.

Commissioners Alvin Hall and Fred Barrett presented the St. Louis County Board's position opposing the park. Hall echoed the State Senate Public Domain Committee opinion that Congress should, "Hold up establishment of the park and give the state of Minnesota an opportunity to act responsibly and protect these lands for future generations." [390] Commissioner Hall advocated the establishment of a commission, authorized by the state, to manage these lands. Later that day, George Amidon said that Boise Cascade, along with other private owners and local governments, would give consideration to cooperating with a commission-type body to regulate the lands in lieu of a national park.

Governor Levander was introduced to the committee by John Blatnik who praised the governor for using his office so effectively to advance the cause for Voyageurs. The governor began his testimony by introducing Commissioner Leirfallom and three other officials from the Conservation Department, Dick Wettersten of the game and fish division, U.W. Hella, state parks director, and Clarence Buckman, deputy director of conservation. Levander's environmental affairs advisor Larry Koll and Assistant Attorney General Phil Ofeldt were also introduced as resource people for this hearing. Only Leirfallom actually participated in the hearing process. After the introductions and assurances by the chairman that the governor's lengthy statement would be placed in the record, Representative Taylor gently reminded the governor to, "hit the high spots."

The governor chose to open his testimony by reviewing the past history of national park studies and proposals for Voyageurs beginning with the 1891 recommendation. He then moved on to the position he outlined in August 1969, which requested that the Blatnik bill include eight points or provisions that he maintained would best protect the interests of the people of Minnesota. Representative Blatnik accepted, indeed he agreed with Levander's provisions and had included them in his legislation.

The NPS had no problem with six of the points presented by Levander, since several were essentially NPS policy for additions to the system. However, they could not accept the inclusion of the Crane Lake Recreation Area and certainly not the positions on hunting and logging that essentially challenged the authority of the NPS. To some extent, inclusion of what were really the Blatnik-Levander "eight points" was an effort to cover their "political backsides" in northeastern Minnesota. The principal difference between Blatnik and Levander on these provisions was the vehemence with which Levander argued for their retention—especially the timber and wildlife management provisions.

It was obvious from the beginning that the governor meant to explain his case with details and conviction. Chairman Taylor, early in Levander's testimony, had made a plea for brevity in view of the many witnesses yet to be heard. Rita Shemish said later that this apparently confused and angered the governor and may have had something to do with the negative impression he left with the committee. [391]

In the face of time constraints, Levander still persisted. At one point he lectured the committee members on their need to, "Recognize the unique needs of this first water-based park. Consequently, we must expect that the traditional policies of the NPS that apply to all parks will have to be tailored to provide for the best use of this park and the greatest protection of this environment. Such modifications made on behalf of this unusual water-based park could not be construed as establishing a precedent for all parks." The governor tried to make this case by asking the committee to, "Accept the concept that public hunting should be authorized and utilized as a management tool in accordance with the laws of Minnesota." [392]

This comment brought an icy response from Chairman Aspinall of the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee. He acknowledged the sincerity of the governor in promoting his case, but this committee, he said, must see that areas coming into the National Park System come in with the proper credentials. He then continued, "I want you to know that I cannot agree to a bill which provides for hunting in a national park. I just can't do it." [393] Aspinall then admonished the people who were sponsoring the legislation to make up their minds pretty soon whether or not they wanted a national park.

To make matters worse for the park cause, when Leirfallom was given several minutes to testify, before the committee returned to Governor Levander, he chose to ignore Aspinall's advice and Taylor's plea for brevity. Leirfallom began with a defense of the Conservation Department's reputation for wildlife management and why their position on public hunting as a management tool should become part of the wildlife program in the new park. Chairman Taylor interrupted Leirfallom. "It is out. It is just that simple. I mean hunting and commercial fishing are out." [394]

As the hearing continued, committee members made frequent references to a national recreation area as the way to accommodate the apparent demand for public hunting. Representative Morris Udall of Arizona later capped the discussion by saying, "You can have a national park without hunting like every other national park, or we can pass a bill making this a national recreation area." [395]

The mood of park supporters in the hearing room dropped even lower when the governor resumed his testimony and turned to his proposal for federal acquisition of approximately 25,000 acres of school trust fund lands within the proposed park. The governor, concerned about the constitutional requirements involved with transfer of trust fund lands, recommended a procedure that required the federal government to purchase the lands and deposit the proceeds in the state's permanent trust fund account. In his prepared statement, Levander said, "The most direct method for acquiring State-owned lands would be condemnation and, with the State's consent, purchase by the National Park Service. Condemnation would satisfy the strict legal requirements for the sale of trust fund lands and the money received by the State would be used to reimburse the permanent trust fund." [396]

Under Levander's plan, the trust fund lands would be appraised and the government would pay the fair market value, just as it would for acquisition of private lands. Chairman Taylor questioned the governor at length about the definition, location and status of the trust fund lands. After the questioning, Taylor told the governor, "I personally will oppose purchasing this land, whether it is through negotiations or condemnation. Our policy has been to accept such land by donation." [397]

To reinforce his point regarding NPS policy, Taylor cited several recent examples in which states donated lands for inclusion in new or expanded existing national park properties including Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After listening to this exchange between Taylor and the governor, it is no small wonder that many in the room wondered why this variance with congressional policy on land donations wasn't noticed beforehand. They questioned why the governor and his staff didn't work out an acceptable plan to resolve the issue before the hearing.

The mood of the advocates for Voyageurs who had made the trip to Washington was somber to say the least. Some, who had worked for almost eight years on the park project and had strong emotional ties to the park cause, were shocked at the turn of events. This was simply not the kind of hearing they had envisioned. In less than two hours, the governor had presented a position statement on Voyageurs that included two conditions in direct opposition to long standing NPS policy regarding land acquisition and wildlife management. In the process, the governor had angered two congressmen—Roy Taylor and Wayne Aspinall—whose support was absolutely essential if Voyageurs has to receive congressional approval.

Park opponents were probably just as surprised at the course of the hearings. The focus was on the troublesome testimony of park supporters and on issues that hadn't been emphasized in public debate in Minnesota. Governor Levander was seen as a champion for Voyageurs. First, for hosting the Virginia conference in the fall of 1967 and then a few days after that meeting, announcing his support for Voyageurs and placing his administration in the forefront of the park movement. Now he was viewed as a negative factor just when the advocates were finally able to go before the one legislative group that could make or break the whole enterprise. Even some of Chairman Taylor's committee colleagues seemed stunned by the testimony they had just heard. Rita Shemish wrote to Sigurd Olson a few weeks later about Levander's testimony. "He had such a great opportunity to go out of office in a blaze of glory and he completely muffed the ball." [398]

Park proponents didn't have to wait long for the gloom to give way to a spirit of optimism. When Governor Levander had finally completed his testimony, Chairman Taylor announced that all government witnesses had been heard from and the committee would begin hearing from the remaining witnesses on the list. He then called Elmer Andersen, president of the VNPA, as the first witness in the final group.

Andersen began his testimony by noting that over 1,300 organizations from across the state had endorsed the Voyageurs proposal. Without mentioning national recreation area, he stressed that this broad support was for a national park in Minnesota. He said, "I believe there are more interpretive services, there is a greater emphasis on history, there is a greater emphasis on science, there is a greater emphasis on interpretation in a national park than in some of the other designated areas, and we believe that would be a very important value, not only for the people of our own state, but for the people at large." [399]

Regarding the problems associated with land donation, Andersen suggested if the requirement of reimbursing the trust fund could not be resolved legislatively, "It can be accommodated by public subscription to reimburse the trust fund and make the land available." [400]

In the brief time allotted to him, Andersen essentially pledge his personal dedication to the resolution of the few remaining issues preventing congressional authorization. He said this with such conviction that Chairman Taylor and several committee members were moved to congratulate him on his effort. Taylor said, "Governor, you have a way of pouring oil on troubled waters. You make us think it can be done and a few minutes ago I was beginning to be very doubtful." [401] Representative Udall, well known in congressional circles and in Arizona for his "down home" humor in situations like this, told Andersen, "With your enthusiasm and diplomacy, you should have gone into politics." Andersen replied, "I did, but I was not fully appreciated." Udall returned with, "Is that like the politician who retired on account of illness—the voters got sick of him?" [402] Needless to say, the laughter that followed this exchange completely changed the mood of the hearing.

A few minutes later Sigurd Olson testified that the proposed park's spiritual and intangible values were its greatest resources. He also noted that with the inclusion of the Crane Lake area, the final gap in the protected section of the border lakes voyageur route would be closed. The dream and objective of the Quetico—Superior Council to "weave a protective screen" along the famous voyageurs highway from Lake Superior to Rainy Lake would be realized. [403]

What looked like disaster for the Voyageurs proposal at midday was rescued by two men of stature and conviction before the committee's adjournment. Far from resolving the thorny issues, the hearing actually highlighted them and revealed some gaping holes in the unified front the VNPA had hoped to present.

A quick assessment of the situation by park supporters showed that before the park legislation could make any further progress, Governor Levander would have to assure the House Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation that state-owned lands would be made available without payment for inclusion in Voyageurs. Rita Shemish contacted Lee McElvain, legal counsel to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, for guidance on the proper course for the VNPA, in light of the events that occurred at the Washington hearings. He replied that the single most critical issue for Voyageurs right now was some assurance from Levander that the state would endeavor to work out a satisfactory resolution of the land acquisition and public hunting issues. John Blatnik told her exactly the same. In letters to Elmer Andersen and Sigurd Olson, she told of her conversations with McElvain and Blatnik saying it was imperative that Levander write a letter to Representative Taylor providing unequivocal assurance especially on the matter of land donation. In her letter to Andersen, Shemish asked, "Could you hold his hand or a club over his head while he writes the letter?" [404]

Lloyd Brandt, a member of the VNPA executive committee and manager of the legislative department of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, wasted no time in writing to Wayne Aspinall concerning the Levander testimony. He placed the blame for the hunting issue on Commissioner Leirfallom who, "has long been critical of the National Park Service method of treating overpopulation of certain animals in national parks. Hunting is not a real issue—an annual kill of 300 deer in the park area loses all significance when compared with the 100,000 plus deer harvested in the state each season." [405]

On the land donation issue, Brandt said there was no question in his mind that the legislature would make the land available without cost. Brandt's letter succinctly expressed the issues and the path to resolution of the two remaining substantive roadblocks to authorizing legislation. The committee would follow the wishes of Congressman Blatnik on the inclusion of the Crane Lake addition and Blatnik could give assurance that hunting was not a major problem. But the governor would have to provide the assurance of state cooperation on land donation. The land donation problem had to be regarded as the principal remaining issue. Following considerable pressure by VNPA members, Governor Levander, in a letter to Representative Taylor, gave what he believed was the necessary assurance.

Levander's letter began by defending his earlier position that federal purchase of the trust lands at fair market value and deposit of the sale-generated funds into the state's trust fund, was the most expeditious way of acquiring the lands. He then acknowledged that Taylor's committee on parks and recreation wouldn't consent to this procedure as a matter of policy. Therefore he told Taylor that either legislative or private funds would be used to reimburse the trust fund, thus eliminating the need for any federal money. [406]

At its September 10 meeting, the VNPA executive committee, apparently seeing no ambiguity in his letter, praised Levander for communicating his assurances to Representative Taylor that the state would indeed donate its trust lands for park purposes. The VNPA and the governor hoped this action would meet the subcommittee's requirement for final authorization of Voyageurs National Park. It remained now for the VNPA to maintain the pressure in Washington to ensure the movement of the bill through the legislative process. Elmer Andersen reminded the VNPA executive committee that the bill must win approval from the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee by September 30. This was necessary to meet the deadline for legislation to be reported out of committees if it was to be approved by the House in that session.

Three steps in the process remained: The executive session on Voyageurs by Taylor's Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation; presentation of the bill to Aspinall's full Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs; and the bill must be reported out of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee by September 30 in order to be considered by the House in the Ninety-first Congress.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 23-Jan-2009