STATEMENT OF TERREL EMMONS, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PROFESSIONAL SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS, COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 3084, TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CONTRIBUTE FUNDS FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INTERPRETIVE CENTER ON THE LIFE AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

MARCH 14, 2000


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department on H.R. 3084. If enacted, this bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to contribute funds for the establishment of an interpretive center in Springfield, Illinois, on the life and contributions of President Abraham Lincoln.

The Department opposes enactment of H.R. 3084. Our opposition in no way reflects on the merits of an interpretive center on the life of President Abraham Lincoln. Our primary concern is the use of National Park Service appropriations to fund major construction projects for non-Park Service facilities. At a time when the National Park Service has a long list of deferred maintenance and construction projects in the national parks, we are unable to support legislation that would authorize $50 million in grants to a non-Federal entity for the construction of an Abraham Lincoln Interpretive Center.

Presently the National Park Service manages five sites that were established to honor President Lincoln. These include: Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, Kentucky; Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial, Indiana; Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois; Ford's Theatre (including the House Where Lincoln Died); and the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC. Other units, including such sites as Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota and Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania, also recognize the contributions made by President Lincoln. The National Park Service has significant responsibilities for interpreting the role President Abraham Lincoln played in the history of the United States.

The National Park Service has been involved with a proposed Abraham Lincoln Center since 1990. In May 1990, a supplemental appropriation for FY 1990 included $150,000 to study the feasibility of developing a research and interpretive center in Springfield, Illinois. In the FY 1992 Department of the Interior appropriations, $2.7 million was included for planning, land acquisition and site preparation of an Abraham Lincoln Center. An additional $1.7 million was included in the FY 1993 appropriations. However, an Abraham Lincoln Center had not been authorized.

 

 

 

The National Park Service, with assistance from a private architectural and engineering firm working under a contract, prepared a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for Location of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Center. The subsequent public review resulted in a "Finding of No Significant Impact" and the EA was approved by the National Park Service Midwest Regional Director. Meanwhile, an additional $3 million in construction funds was included in the FY 1994 Department of the Interior appropriations, subject to an authorization for the center. In 1994 the National Park Service, in partnership with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and historical consultants, developed a "Draft Interpretive Prospectus" that determined the thematic focus of the proposed center.

While authorization for the proposed Abraham Lincoln Center (to be managed by the National Park Service as part of Lincoln Home National Historic Site) had strong support in the House of Representatives, it met opposition in the Senate. The 103rd Congress adjourned without the Senate voting on the project and no additional funds were appropriated for FY 1995. Thereafter, absent an authorization, the National Park Service placed the project on hold, including any planning and land acquisition. The Federal funding that had been appropriated, $7.3 million less the amounts already expended, was eventually rescinded.

The FY 2000 National Park Service appropriation for construction includes $2.775 million for the "Lincoln Library". The National Park Service will provide a grant to the State of Illinois for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to continue work with architectural and engineering firms. However, the Conference Report states that any future funding for the Lincoln Library will be contingent on enacted legislation.

We remain interested in working in an advisory capacity with the State of Illinois on a proposed Lincoln Interpretive Center. However, we cannot support the diversion of Federal funds from the national parks to a non-Federal construction project that H.R. 3084 would effect.

This concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.