STATEMENT OF DENIS GALVIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION, AND RECREATION, REGARDING S. 1705, A BILL TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO ACQUIRE AND CONVEY LAND NEAR THE CITY OF ROCKS NATIONAL RESERVE AND WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF HAGERMAN FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT.
March 8, 2000
Thank you for the opportunity to present the position of the Department of the Interior on S. 1705, a bill that would direct the Secretary of the Interior to engage in land exchanges relating to Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, and the City of Rocks National Reserve. The Department of the Interior supports this legislation, with amendments that would make S. 1705 consistent with National Park Service policy.
S. 1705 would direct the Secretary of the Interior to acquire approximately 1,420 acres of land, known as the "Castle Rock Ranch", located outside of the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho. The Secretary would then convey this land to the State of Idaho in exchange for approximately 500 acres within the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Under the bill the State would have the authority to convey portions of the Castle Rock Ranch to private owners in exchange for land within the City of Rocks National Reserve.
This legislation would have a tremendously beneficial effect on Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. This park was established in 1988 to protect the world's richest known fossil deposits from the late Pliocene time period. Most of the fossils discovered within the boundaries of the National Monument are found in an area called the Hagerman Horse Quarry. The Horse Quarry, a national natural landmark, is presently owned by the State of Idaho. Under S. 1705, the State would transfer this land to the Secretary.
This transaction would allow the Park Service to fulfill its mandate under the 1988 act that created Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. This site is rich in paleontological resources, and is recognized as one of the most important sites in the world related to the fossil history of the horse. Indeed, it is where the fossil of the world renowned "Hagerman horse" was discovered. The site also contains fossils of more than 200 species of vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants. The Horse Quarry's high concentration of paleontological resources from a relatively short geological span makes possible the understanding of geological events, environmental changes, and biodiversity that would be impossible for most fossil areas. By transferring this area to National Park Service ownership, S. 1705 would protect these important resources in a way that was envisioned by Congress when it created Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument.
S. 1705 would also benefit the City of Rocks National Reserve. The City of Rocks National Reserve was established by Congress in 1988 as a unit of the National Park system primarily because of its unique rock formations. Despite its status as a unit of the National Park System, it is managed, in accordance with its enabling legislation, by the State of Idaho. S. 1705 would allow the State to exchange portions of the Castle Rock Ranch for private holdings within the City of Rocks National Reserve. While we support increased public ownership of the land within the borders of the City of Rocks National Reserve, we believe the federal government, not the State, should be the owner of this land, because federal taxpayers would effectively be paying for this land. Federal ownership would be consistent with the act that made City of Rocks National Reserve a unit of the National Park system. The Reserve was created for the benefit of all Americans, and therefore should be owned by all Americans. Indeed, without federal ownership of the land within the City of Rocks National Reserve Monument, this unit would be without federal management or ownership, two of the primary characteristics associated with units of the National Park system. The State of Idaho would continue to manage the Reserve under existing arrangements. Informal estimates indicate that the land to be received by the federal government would be approximately equal in value to the land it would convey to the State.
To accomplish the goal of federal ownership of the tracts within the City of Rocks National Reserve, we suggest that the language be amended in a way that would allow the Secretary to convey portions of the Castle Rock Ranch in exchange for inholdings within the City of Rocks National Reserve, and to the State in exchange for the Hagerman Horse Quarry. We have attached a copy of our proposed amendments, which includes a redraft of Section 4 to clarify the intent of the section.
This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.
S. 1705—Proposed Section 4
SEC. 4. LAND EXCHANGE.
(a) HAGERMAN FOSSIL BEDS.—
(1) FEDERAL AND STATE EXCHANGE.—Subject to subsection (b), on completion of the acquisition under section 3(a), the Secretary shall convey the Ranch, or portions thereof, to the State of Idaho in exchange for up to approximately 500 acres of land near Hagerman, Idaho, located within the boundary of the Monument.
(2) ADMINISTRATION.—State land acquired by the United States in the land exchange under subsection (a) (1) shall be administered by the Secretary as part of the Monument.
(b) CITY OF ROCKS NATIONAL RESERVE.--
(1) SECRETARY AND PRIVATE LANDOWNER EXCHANGE.—The Secretary may exchange the remaining portions of the Ranch not used for an exchange under subsection (a)(1) to acquire private land within the boundaries of the Reserve, with the consent of the owners of the private land.
(2) CONDITION OF EXCHANGE.—As a condition of the land exchange under subsection (b)(1), the State of Idaho shall administer all private land acquired by the federal government within the Reserve through an exchange under this Act in accordance with title II of the Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act of 1988 (16 U.S.C. 460yy et seq.).