JULY 27, 2000

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to present the position of the Department of the Interior on S. 2848, a bill to provide for a land exchange at Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico.

The Department supports this legislation with the amendments outlined in this testimony. However, we defer to the U.S. Forest Service with respect to a determination that the lands they would convey are excess to their needs and available to be used as part of the proposed land exchange.

Pecos National Historical Park (NHP) was established in 1965 as Pecos National Monument and was redesignated in 1990. The park includes almost 7,000 acres in three units and tells the story of 12,000 years of human history. This story includes that of the people of the Pecos Pueblo who made their homes at a trading crossroads that became a center of cultural change. This crossroads saw the effects of Spanish colonization from the south and the movement westward along the Santa Fe Trail by a variety of people and cultures.

In addition, Pecos NHP tells the story of one of the most interesting battles of the Civil War fought in the west, the Battle of Glorieta Pass. It is also home to a 20th century ranch that illustrates how important and critical this natural and cultural crossroads is to the history of America.

Pecos NHP not only protects a story and remnants of how this country changed and evolved, but also the resources in the natural environment needed by people throughout the 12,000 years of human occupation. Of foremost importance is the Pecos River, one of only five in New Mexico that is free-flowing year-round. The mosaic of the riparian environment, high elevation forest, grasslands, and meadows sustains valuable and variable wildlife habitats and ecosystems that are prominent features in and of themselves as well as vital to the park’s several and overlapping cultural landscapes.

When the park was redesignated in 1990, new lands were added and the scope and mission of the park were greatly expanded. The Glorieta Unit, divided into two sub-units, each containing three hundred acres, preserves sites of the Civil War action at Glorieta Pass. More than half of the land in these two units is privately owned, making public access, preservation of resources, and protection of property rights difficult. The lands proposed for exchange in S. 2848 are in the Canoncito subunit, the westernmost portion of the park.

S. 2848 proposes an exchange among the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and a private landowner. The private land owner would convey 154 acres of land to the National Park Service at Pecos National Historical Park. The U.S. Forest Service would then convey 160 acres of federal land to the private landowner. Because the land already is within the boundary of the park and identified for purchase in the July 1993 Land Protection Plan, no boundary adjustment would be needed. As part of the exchanges the private landowner would be given an easement to allow access to two existing wells. The bill also allows for the Secretaries to establish additional terms and conditions on the exchange in order to protect the interest of the federal government.

We understand the U.S. Forest Service parcel proposed for the exchange is undeveloped. There are no public utilities within one half mile of the parcel. No environmental analysis has been completed on this parcel.

Our recommended amendments are technical in nature, which we believe would simplify and clarify responsibilities for the various parts of the exchanges as well as meet deadlines to complete the process.

As presently worded, Section 3(a)(2) calls for the Secretary of Agriculture to convey an easement on land located within Pecos NHP. We recommend this be changed to allow the Secretary of the Interior to convey the easement directly to the landowner. The easement would allow the landowner to withdraw water from two existing wells on the parcel that will be given to the National Park Service. We recommend that some parameters on the water used from these wells be added to the bill to ensure the adequate protection of park resources, such as limiting the number of gallons per hour that can be withdrawn with a total amount not to be exceeded in a given day, week, or month.

We recommend that Section 3(d)(1) be clarified to provide specifically for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Section 3(d)(2) requires the landowner to pay for the appraisals of the two parcels. We recommend that this portion of the bill be modified to state that the while the landowner will pay for the appraisals, the Department of Interior will obtain the appraisals. This would assure that the appraisals are conducted in accordance with the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisition and allow quick acceptance of the property by the National Park Service during the exchange.

Section 3(d)(3) requires the exchange to be completed within 90 days. We believe that one year would be a more realistic time. Shorter time periods could frustrate the exchange proposal if all of the necessary work to conduct the exchange is not completed within the given time frame such as the completion of the analysis to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. Also a longer time period would allow for an arbitrator to negotiate an agreement should the parties be unable to agree on the appraisal. We understand that the use of an arbitrator is required in 43 USC 1716(d).

We understand that the U.S. Forest Service has concerns relating to Section 3(d)(4) involving cash equalization or an adjustment of acres if the value of National Forest System land exceeds the value of the private lands exchanged, as well as the use of any funds received in a cash equalization payment. We defer to the Forest Service to provide you with their suggested language for this section.

We believe that the map referenced in the bill is insufficient for the purpose of this legislation. We are willing to work with the subcommittee and the U.S. Forest Service to provide the correct map.

We suggest that the bill include a provision for reporting back to this subcommittee on the successful completion of the exchange to help ensure that all parties have met and bargained in good faith, and that every effort to complete the exchange is completed in a timely manner.

S. 2848 does indeed benefit Pecos NHP. It would continue the expansion of the park that was begun when lands were added to the boundary in 1990, and allow the National Park Service to more adequately and completely serve park visitors and protect park resources.

We look forward to working with the subcommittee and Senator Bingaman. We will also continue to work with the U.S. Forest Service to ensure that the final bill language reflects the needs and interests of all parties to the exchange and completes that exchange in the most direct manner.

That concludes my remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.