STATEMENT OF JAMES A. MORRIS, SUPERINTENDENT, CRATERS OF THE MOON NATIONAL MONUMENT, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SUBCOMMITTEE ON FORESTS AND PUBLIC LAND MANAGEMENT, REGARDING THE EXPANSION OF CRATERS OF THE MOON NATIONAL MONUMENT

JUNE 17, 2000


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the proposal to expand the boundary of Craters of the Moon National Monument. This proposal would add approximately 700,000 acres to Craters of the Moon National Monument, and is contained in a draft map and "Consensus Management Points" issued by the Secretary of the Interior on May 23, 2000. As the Superintendent of Craters of the Moon National Monument, I would be happy to outline how this proposed area would be managed if it is brought into Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Craters of the Moon National Monument was established by Proclamation of President Calvin Coolidge in 1924. That proclamation stated in part that this area "contains many curious and unusual phenomena of great educational value and has a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself." Since that initial proclamation there have been four additional proclamations by three different Presidents and one legislative action modifying the size and boundaries to the monument, which is now approximately 54,000 acres in size, or 83 square miles.

The current Craters of the Moon National Monument occupies the northernmost 13 miles of the approximately 62-mile long Great Rift zone. The geological and ecological significance of the entire Great Rift zone was unrecognized until extensive mapping and study by the U.S. Geological Survey in the 1970s and 1980s. This unusual and remarkable landscape provides an incomparable opportunity for scientific study and appreciation of the tectonic forces that have led to crustal rifting and basaltic volcanism unmatched anywhere in North America and perhaps in the world.

The proposal to expand Craters of the Moon National Monument would enlarge the monument from 54,000 acres to approximately 750,000 acres. The National Park Service (NPS) would administer the lands covered by the exposed recent lava flows, roughly 500,000 acres in total, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would continue to administer the lands covered by shrubs and grasses, roughly 250,000 acres. All of the land that would be added to the monument is federal land currently under management by the BLM.

The proposal would provide for the management of activities that take place in the expanded monument in the following manner: sheep and cattle grazing would continue on the publicly owned lands of the shrub/grassland areas of Laidlaw Park, Little Park, Huddles Hole, Larkspur Park; the area lying between the two large lava areas of the Craters of the Moon and Wapi Lava Fields; and around the edges of the large lava fields. Sheep and cattle have historically been trailed and people have operated motorized vehicles across the lava fields in strategic locations. The continuation of these activities would be provided for by retaining identified narrow strips of exposed lava under BLM administration, within the proposed expanded monument.

Vehicular traffic would be confined to designated roads and trails, except for emergency and authorized administrative access, which includes the needs of individuals holding permits and leases. Hunting would continue to be managed by the State of Idaho on the lands to continue under the administration of the BLM. Hunting would not be permitted on the lands to be administered by the NPS. As wildlife rarely stray onto this land, this prohibition would have only a negligible effect on hunting in the area. The collection of resources, objects, rocks, fossils, plants, parts of plants, animals, and similar items from the monument would be prohibited, except for collections authorized by a permit in conjunction with authorized research or management activities; the collection of antlers or horns on BLM- administered lands as provided for by Idaho Department of Fish and Game regulations; and the collection of dead wood for immediate use in campfires, where campfires are allowed. As stated earlier, these prohibitions would not diminish the responsibility and authority of the State of Idaho for management of fish and wildlife, including the regulation of hunting, on BLM-administered lands within the monument.

Those current BLM lands presently categorized as "Wilderness Study Areas" which have been identified by the wilderness review required by Section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act would remain as "lands under wilderness review" until Congress either designates these lands as wilderness or releases them for other purposes. Those lands, whether they eventually come under the administration of the NPS, or remain with the BLM, would continue to be subject to the provisions of the "interim management policy" for lands under wilderness review.

The proposed expansion of Craters of the Moon National Monument would not affect any current or future proposals to pave or otherwise improve the Arco-Minidoka Road. It is my understanding that the Secretary would instruct the Resource Advisory Council to work with local communities to develop an impact aid package to address road improvements, signing, range improvements and other interests that might fall outside the normal funding capabilities of the Bureau of Land Management or the National Park Service. In addition, valid existing rights associated with private property, including access to private property, would be protected.

Some of the notable volcanic and ecological features of the areas that would be brought into Craters of the Moon National Monument by this proposal are:

This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any of your questions pertaining to how this area would be managed if it is brought within the boundary of Craters of the Moon National Monument.