STATEMENT OF BRENDA BARRETT, NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR HERITAGE AREAS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1638, TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO STUDY THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY OF DESIGNATING THE FRENCH COLONIAL HERITAGE AREA IN THE STATE OF MISSOURI AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

 

 

APRIL 18, 2002

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Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department’s views on S. 1638, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the French Colonial Heritage Area in the State of Missouri as a unit of the National Park System.

 

The Department supports S. 1638, with the minor clarification provided in this testimony.  However, the Department did not request additional funding for this study in Fiscal Year 2003.  We believe that any funding requested should be directed towards completing previously authorized studies.  Presently, there are 38 studies pending, of which we hope to transmit 15 to Congress by the end of 2002.  To meet the President’s Initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, we must continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System.  Thus, we have concerns about new funding requirements for either a new park unit or heritage area that could be required if the study recommends designation while the Department is trying to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog.  As such, the Department will identify in each study all acquisition, one-time, and operational costs of the proposed site.  At this time, these costs are not known.

 

S. 1638 directs the Secretary to study the suitability and feasibility of including the French Colonial Heritage Area of Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, as a unit of the National Park System.  Section 3(1) defines the Heritage Area as including the Bequette-Ribault, St. Gemme-Amoureaux and Wilhauk homes, and the related and supporting historical assets in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri.  Related and supporting historical assets include Le Grand Champ, historic downtown Ste. Genevieve, and a prehistoric Native American Village.

 

In April 1980, the Midwest Regional Office of the National Park Service completed a brief Reconnaissance Report of Ste. Genevieve.  A memorandum forwarding the report to Washington, signed by the Regional Director, recommended that a study of alternatives be prepared for both the existing townsite of Ste. Genevieve, and for the archeological site on which the town was originally located.  The term “Study of Alternatives” is synonymous with study of suitability and feasibility as used in S. 1638.

 

The Reconnaissance Report looked at the area’s cultural, natural, scenic, and recreational resources as well as ownership patterns and possible threats to the area.  This earlier report will provide valuable background should this legislation be enacted authorizing a more in-depth study of suitability, feasibility, and management alternatives.

 

We discussed the intent of the legislation with the bill’s sponsor.  S. 1638 authorizes the Secretary to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the French Colonial Heritage Area as a unit of the National Park System.  The National Park Service uses the term “Heritage Area” to define a regional entity having a central theme that does not include management by the National Park Service, whereas the term “Unit” is used when an area is managed wholly or in part by the Service. 

 

We confirmed that the intent of the bill is to authorize the Secretary to study the French Colonial Historic District and accompanying resources within Ste. Genevieve County as a potential unit of the National Park System.  This Special Resource Study will identify and explore a range of management possibilities, which could include a unit, such as a National Historic Site, managed by the National Park Service as well as management as a Heritage Area by a non-Federal entity.  We will be happy to work with the subcommittee staff to develop any clarifying language that may be required. 

 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.