MAY 11, 2000

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interiorís views on S. 2478, to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a theme study on the peopling of America.

The Department supports S. 2478 with amendments. We believe that the theme study on the peopling of America and related actions authorized by this bill would lead to a better understanding of the contributions many different groups of people made to the development of our nation and to the preservation and interpretation of sites that help tell the stories of those contributions.

We should note that this study is not one of the new area studies proposed for authorization and funding in the letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Resources Committee accompanying the Presidentís FY 2001 budget. We would recommend that the studies in that letter receive priority for authorization and funding.

S. 2478 would require the Secretary of the Interior to prepare a National Historic Landmark theme study on the peopling of America--that is, on the migration, immigration, and settlement of the population of the United States. The purpose of the study would be to identify places and groups and people that best illustrate and commemorate key events or decisions affecting the peopling of America, and that can provide a basis for the preservation and interpretation of the movements of groups of people that have shaped the United States. This would include groups that came to America before the nation of the United States existed. The study would identify and nominate new national historic landmarks, and would also encourage the nomination of properties to the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the theme study would include an identification of current sites within units of the National Park System at which the peopling of America may be interpreted.

In addition to authorizing the theme study, S. 2478 would require the Secretary to take certain actions on the basis of the study. Those actions include designating new national historic landmarks and recommending sites for which studies for potential inclusion in the National Park System should be authorized according to the provisions of the National Park Service Omnibus Management Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-391). Such sites would presumably be included in the Secretaryís annual list of proposed new area studies that accompanies the Presidentís budget, pursuant to the Act. The Secretary would be required to evaluate, identify, and designate new national historic landmarks and to evaluate, identify, and recommend new area studies related to the peopling of America on an ongoing basis.

In addition, on the basis of the theme study, the Secretary would be authorized to identify appropriate means for establishing ways to link places, groups of people, and units of the National Park System to maximize opportunities for public education and scholarly research on the peopling of America. The Secretary would also be authorized to enter into cooperative arrangements with appropriate entities to preserve and interpret key sites in the peopling of America. And, the Secretary would be required to use the documentation in the theme study for a broad range of educational initiatives and cooperative programs to encourage the preservation and interpretation of the peopling of America. Finally, the Secretary would be authorized to use cooperative agreements with various entities knowledgeable about the peopling of America both for the theme study itself and for the actions undertaken as a result of the study.

The National Historic Landmarks program was established by the Act of August 21, 1935, commonly known as the Historic Sites, Buildings and Antiquities Act (16 U.S.C. 461 et. seq.) and is implemented according to 36 CFR Part 65. The programís mission is to identify those places that best illustrate the themes, events, or persons that are nationally significant to the history of the United States and that retain a high degree of integrity. Potential National Historic Landmarks are often identified through "theme studies" such as the one that would be authorized by S. 2478. One ongoing theme study related to the "peopling of America" is a joint effort by the national Park Service and the Society for American Archeology entitled "The Earliest Americans," which is designed to identify sites related to the initial migration of Native Americans to North America at the end of the last Ice Age.

The Secretary of the Interior has previously recognized as National Historic Landmarks a number of sites that could be associated with sections of the "peopling of America" theme. One example is the Angel Island Immigration Station in California. Other recognition has focused on the places where various immigrant communities lived, worked, worshipped, and were buried. In addition, the National Park Service has identified several National Historic Trails, such as the Mormon Pioneer and the California National Historic Trails, which focus on settlement and migration within the United States.

If the Peopling of America theme study is authorized and funded, we anticipate that the National Park Service would partner with nationwide historical and anthropological organizations to provide experts in the history of immigration to the United States and migration within the country.

While we support the authorization of the theme study, we recommend that the bill be amended to add a definition of "peopling of America" to Section 3 of the bill. We also believe that "trails" should be added to the list of places that would be identified as places that illustrate key immigration or migration events in Section 4(b) and to the list of places that are considered for education and research purposes in Section 4(f)(1)(a). And, we recommend that "assisting members of the public in evaluating sites" of historic importance called for in Section 4(b)(2)(B) not be an explicit requirement of the theme study, as that is an activity that is beyond the scope of a study.

Mr. Chairman, the story of immigration and migration is historically relevant to all Americans; it is a vital part of our national character. If the Peopling of America theme study is authorized and funded, the National Park Service will be ready to explore this uniquely American story so that we and future generations will better understand our collective heritage as immigrants.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

Amendments to S. 2478, Peopling of America Theme Study

Proposed by the National Park Service


Page 4, line 11, insert "(3) PEOPLING OF AMERICA.óThe term "peopling of America" means the migration, immigration, and settlement of the United States."

Page 4, line 16, insert "trails," after "areas,".

Page 5, line 11, insert a period after "Places" and strike "by assisting members" and the remainder of that sentence.

Page 6, line 18, insert "trails," after "areas,".