STATEMENT OF DR. MICHAEL SOUKUP, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, RECREATION, AND PUBLIC LANDS, OF THE HOUSE RESOURCES COMMITTEE, CONCERNING H. R. 1963, TO AMEND THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT TO DESIGNATE THE ROUTE TAKEN BY AMERICAN SOLDIER AND FRONTIERSMAN GEORGE ROGERS CLARK AND HIS MEN DURING THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR TO CAPTURE THE BRITISH FORTS AT KASKASKIA AND CAHOKIA, ILLINOIS, AND VINCENNES, INDIANA, FOR STUDY FOR POTENTIAL ADDITION TO THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM. 

 

October 16, 2001

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Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H. R. 1963.  This bill would amend the National Trails System Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the route used by George Rogers Clark during the Revolutionary War to capture the British forts at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, Illinois, and Vincennes, Indiana, as a potential addition to the National Trails System.

 

The Department supports H. R. 1963 with an amendment to clarify the boundary of the area to be studied.  However, in light of the President’s commitment to reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance needs within the National Park System, we will neither request funding for this study in this fiscal year, so as to focus available time and resources on completing previously authorized studies, nor be able to begin the study until at least fiscal year 2003, as there are 39 authorized studies that are pending, and we only expect to complete a few of those this year.  Furthermore, in order to better plan for the future of our national parks, we believe that studies should carefully examine the full life cycle operation and maintenance costs that would result from each alternative considered.  Additionally, our support of this study legislation should not be interpreted to mean that the Department would necessarily support designations that may be recommended by the study.  

 

H. R. 1963 calls for the completion of a study of the George Rogers Clark Northwest Campaign Trail.  This trail traces the water and overland route of the 1778 and 1779 expedition of Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark and his Virginia militia against the British in which he captured the British forts at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, in what is now Illinois, and twice captured Vincennes, in what is now Indiana.

 

George Rogers Clark was one of the prominent figures of the American frontier.  Born in Virginia in 1752, he migrated to the wilderness beyond the Appalachians in 1772.  By 1775 he had gained a position of leadership in the Kentucky region.

 

In 1778, Clark led a campaign into what became the Northwest Territory and captured the British posts at Kaskaskia and Cahokia on the Mississippi River and Vincennes on the Wabash River, although British forces from Detroit successfully recaptured the fort at Vincennes late in 1778. 

 

In February of 1779 Clark marched with about 170 men across 180 miles of frozen, flooded plains, at times wading in icy waters reaching their shoulders, to recapture the fort at Vincennes.  The mission took three weeks and is regarded as one of the boldest in American history.  As a result of this campaign, Clark assured American control of the Northwest Territory – a region that would include the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and a portion of Minnesota.

 

In April of 1989, at the request of former Congressman Glenn Poshard, the Midwest Regional Office of the National Park Service prepared a preliminary assessment of whether the routes of George Rogers Clark during the Revolutionary War would qualify for study as a National Historic Trail.  Based on available information, the assessment concluded that the routes taken by Clark in 1778-1779 may meet the criteria for National Historic Trails.  The next step would be for Congress to authorize a study to determine if the route indeed meets the criteria and whether it would be suitable and feasible for establishment as a National Historic Trail.

 

The 1989 assessment suggested that if a formal study is authorized that it would be appropriate to include not only the portions of the campaign that took place in what is now Illinois and Indiana, but also Clark’s route down the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers from the point of origin near Pittsburgh.  We recommend that H. R. 1963 be amended to specify that the boundaries of the study will include Clark’s entire route from near Pittsburgh to Vincennes.   

 

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