APRIL 18, 2002



Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S.1939, a bill to authorize the establishment of the Great Basin National Heritage Area in Nevada and Utah.


The Department recognizes the appropriateness of designating the Great Basin National Heritage Area, as the area has the characteristics necessary to be established as a national heritage area and the potential to meet the expectations of the National Park Service’s national heritage area program.  However, we recommend that the committee defer action on S. 1939 during the remainder of the 107th Congress.  The Department has reviewed our progress on the President’s Initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, and it is clear that we need to continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System.  While the designation of the heritage area will not result in additional acquisition or capital costs, the authorization provides for grant assistance costs not to exceed $10 million through the year 2020.  At such time as this legislation moves forward, we support the amendments outlined in this testimony.   


S.1939 would establish the Great Basin National Heritage Area in White Pine County, Nevada, Millard County, Utah and on the Duckwater Shoshone Reservation, including the towns of Delta, Utah, Ely, Nevada, and the surrounding communities. 


The bill designates the Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership as the management entity for the Heritage Area.  The management entity would be made up of representatives appointed by the Board of County Commissioners of Millard County, Utah, White Pine County Nevada, and Native American Tribes participating in the heritage area.  The bill also authorizes the development of a management plan for the Heritage Area.  If the plan is not submitted within five years, the Heritage Area becomes ineligible for federal funding.  Additionally, S. 1939 outlines the duties of the management entity and prohibits the use of federal funds to acquire real property or interests in real property. 


The management entity is authorized to spend federal funds on non-federally owned property.  At the request of the management entity, the Secretary would be authorized to provide technical and financial assistance to develop and implement the management plan.  S.1939 authorizes $10,000,000 in appropriations, through the year 2020, and limits federal funding to 50 percent of the total cost of any assistance or grant.    


The creation of the Great Basin National Heritage Area would encompass the long history of Western habitation and development related to the pony express, mining, ranching, railroading, Native Americans, and Mormon and other pioneer settlements, as well as demonstrating the diversity of western culture and how people of Greek, Chinese, Basque, Serb, Croat, Italian, Hispanic, and Native American descent have influenced it. 


On a natural scale the heritage area would provide a new partnership for management and protection of long natural vistas, isolated high desert valleys, mountain ranges and among the best air, water and night sky qualities found in the United States.  Few roadways interrupt the basin and range topography.  Large herds of mammals are often present.  The area is recognized by the State of Nevada as the “Loneliest Highway in America,” capitalizing on western landscape values.


A natural partnership between Great Basin National Park and the Management Entity of the Heritage Area could be created; one which incorporates the enabling legislation of the park, allowing further interpretation of the 200,000 square miles of the Great Basin through association with other organizations. 


The National Park Service has defined a National Heritage Area as a place where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to form a nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity.  Heritage conservation efforts are grounded in a community's pride and interest in its history and traditions.  Preserving the integrity of the cultural landscape and local stories means that future generations will be able to understand and define who they are, where they come from, and what ties them to their home. 


As we have previously testified, there are several steps the National Park Service believes should be taken prior to Congress designating a national heritage area to help ensure that the heritage area is successful.  The steps are:

1. completion of a suitability/feasibility study;

2. public involvement in the suitability/feasibility study;

3. demonstration of widespread public support among heritage area residents for the proposed designation; and

4. commitment to the proposal from the appropriate players which may include governments, industry, and private, non-profit organizations, in addition to the local citizenry.


We believe that studies that have been completed or are underway meet the intent of these criteria.  The proposed establishment is based on many years of work conducted by various local community organizations in Utah and Nevada, culminating in The Strategy for Development of the Great Basin Heritage Route prepared by the Great Basin Heritage Route Partnership, with input from a cross-section of citizens in the region.  This report and other related reports conducted in Utah and Nevada have included organizations, agencies, tribal representatives, and potential partners who would be involved in the creation and management of a National Heritage Area.  This coalition is consistent with Secretary Norton’s  “4-Cs” effort, demonstrating the benefits of consultation, communication and collaboration in the service of conservation. 


Additional reports and studies that address a Great Basin National Heritage Area include The Baker and Great Basin National Park Business Plan: A Regional Integrated Tourism Development Study, prepared in part by the Great Basin Business and Tourism Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Additionally, a Cultural Resources Survey, funded through the Utah State Division of History, is in the process of being completed.  Funds have also been set aside by the Nevada Department of Economic Development to begin writing a management plan for the area.  Although not specifically related to the Great Basin National Heritage Area when they were prepared, the National Park Service completed two new area studies, in 1980 and 1981, of the Great Basin area which examined resources and identified sites with potential for representing the Great Basin theme.


The completed studies as well as those in progress have generated popular support for this proposal and have been accomplished with little involvement from the National Park Service.  Taken together, the studies accomplish goals similar to those undertaken in a National Park Service study.


At such time as S. 1939 moves forward, we recommend the following amendments.  These suggestions are either consistent with amendments we have suggested in previous heritage area bills or will conform S. 1939 to recent heritage area legislation.


Section 7(a)(1) of the bill gives the management entity the authority to make loans to various entities.  No criteria or administrative guidelines are provided, and possible liability is not addressed.  We believe there are more effective ways for management entities to use limited federal funds than creating loan programs.


Section 8(b) authorizes the Secretary to expend federal funds on non-federally owned property to further the purposes of the Act.  Section 8(b)(2) directs the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) to conduct studies necessary to document the industrial, engineering, building, and architectural history of the region.  We feel that federal funds authorized in the bill for the heritage area’s management entity are for implementation of their plan and to address these types of issues.  Money for any studies by HABS/HAER should come from the heritage area’s funding as part of its planning process.  We strongly urge that this section be removed from the bill.


We also suggest several amendments that would conform S. 1939 to similar, recently passed heritage area legislation.  These amendments include defining the boundaries, clarifying the role of tribal representatives in the management entity, standardizing the development of the management plan, as well as the termination of authority and appropriations language.  Our proposed amendments are attached to this testimony.


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

Proposed Amendments – S. 1939

Page 6, line 25, before the period, insert “in Nye County, Nevada.  The boundaries of the Heritage Area shall be specified in detail in the management plan developed in Section 6.”.


Page 7, line 2, strike “As a condition for the receipt of Federal funds under this Act, the” and insert “The”.


Page 7, line 21, after “Utah,” insert “and the tribal governing body of each Native American Tribe participating in the Heritage Area”.


Page 9, line 12, strike “5” and insert “3”.


Page 9, line 13, strike “may” and insert “shall”.


Page 13, line 16, strike “loans and”.


Page 17, line 4, strike “(b) SPENDING FOR NON-FEDERAL PROPERTY.” and all that follows through line 18, and redesignate subsections (c), (d), and (e), as subsections (b), (c), and (d), respectively.


Page 17, line 25, strike “Federal,”.


Page 19, line 3, strike “September 20, 2020” and insert “September 30, 2012”.


Page 19, line 6, insert before the period “, of which not more than $1,000,000 is authorized to be appropriated for any 1 fiscal year”.