STATEMENT OF RICHARD G. RING, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK OPERATIONS AND EDUCATION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, RECREATION AND PUBLIC LANDS OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 107, TO REQUIRE THAT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR CONDUCT A STUDY TO IDENTIFY SITES AND RESOURCES, TO RECOMMEND ALTERNATIVES FOR COMMEMORATING AND INTERPRETING THE COLD WAR
MARCH 8, 2001
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interiorís views on H.R. 107. This bill would require that the Secretary of the Interior conduct a study to identify sites and resources associated with the Cold War and to recommend alternatives for commemorating and interpreting that period of our nationís history.
While we believe that it is wholly appropriate for the National Park Service to undertake a study of this nature, the Administration recommends that the Committee defer action on H.R. 107 until we are able to begin making progress on the Presidentís Initiative to eliminate the National Park Service (NPS) deferred maintenance backlog within five years. We are generally seeking a temporary moratorium on new park unit designations or authorization of new studies so that we can focus existing resources on taking care of what we now own. We also want to make sure that, when completing previously authorized studies, we closely examine the costs of acquiring, restoring, and operating a potential new park unit.
H.R. 107 would require the Secretary of the Interior to prepare a National Historic Landmark theme study to identify sites and resources in the United States that are significant to the Cold War. The bill specifically provides that the study consider the inventory of Cold War resources that has been compiled by the Department of Defense and other historical studies and research on various types of military resources. H.R. 107 requires the study to include recommendations for commemorating these resources and for establishing cooperative arrangements with other entities.
In addition to authorizing the theme study, H.R. 107 would require the Secretary to prepare and publish an interpretive handbook on the Cold War and to disseminate information gathered through the study in other ways. The bill would also require the Secretary to establish a Cold War Advisory Committee to consult on the study. H.R. 107 authorizes appropriations of $200,000 for these activities.
The National Historic Landmarks program was established by the Act of August 21, 1935, commonly known as the Historic Sites 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 Atheme studiesí such as the one that would be authorized by H.R. 107.
For example, last year the National Park Service completed and transmitted to Congress a National Historic Landmark theme study on the history of racial desegregation of public schools, which was authorized by Public Law 105-356, the Act that established the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. Federal, state, and local officials across the country are now using this study to identify and evaluate the significance of numerous properties. So far, properties in nine states and the District of Columbia have been recommended for consideration as national historic landmarks. Currently the National Park Service is conducting several other theme studies, including one related to the history of the labor movement, another on the earliest inhabitants of North America, and another on sites associated with Japanese Americans.
At the moment, the history of the Cold War has some presence in the National Park System and on the two lists of historic sites maintained by the National Park Service. The National Park System includes one unit related to the Cold War, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota, which Congress established two years ago to preserve and interpret the role of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in our nationís defense system.
Out of 2,329 designated national historic landmarks, five recognize civilian or military aspects of Cold War history, and out of more than 72,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, 17 (including the five landmarks) are related to the Cold War. The relatively small number of recognized sites is due in large part to the fact that the Cold War has only recently been viewed as history. With or without a theme study, these numbers would likely increase over time, and the Department of Defense could take steps on its own to identify these sites.
In addition to our general concern that a new study is not appropriate at this time, we have a technical concern with Section 3, which provides for the establishment of an advisory committee to consult with on the study. In our view, such a committee is unnecessary and, because of the legal requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.), would add greatly to the cost of a study and time required to complete it.
National Historic Landmark program regulations already require consultation with Federal, state, and local governments; national and statewide associations; and a variety of other interested parties. Through partnering with a national historical organization, using a peer-review process, and consulting with appropriate subject experts as well as the general public, the National Park Service would ensure that the broadest historical perspectives are represented in any study it undertakes.
In addition, we have been informed by the Department of Justice that the provisions of the bill that would require the Secretary of the Interior to make recommendations to Congress concerning federal protection for Cold War sites appear to violate the Recommendations Clause of the Constitution, which reserves to the President the power to decide whether it is necessary or expedient for the Executive Branch to make legislative policy recommendations to the Congress. At such time when further consideration of the bill is appropriate, the Administration will be pleased to provide language to remedy the bill's constitutional defects.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.