STATEMENT OF DR. MICHAEL SOUKUP, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, RECREATION, AND PUBLIC LANDS, CONCERNING H. R. 38, TO PROVIDE FOR ADDITIONAL LANDS TO BE INCLUDED WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE HOMESTEAD NATIONAL MONUMENT OF AMERICA IN THE STATE OF NEBRASKA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department on H.R. 38. This bill provides for additional lands to be included within the boundaries of Homestead National Monument of America in the State of Nebraska.
The Department supports the enactment of H.R. 38. Acquisition of these additional lands has been recommended by the Homestead National Monument of America’s 1999 General Management Plan, and costs to administer this boundary modification are expected to be minimal. Funding to acquire the privately owned properties was included in the Fiscal Year 2001 Interior Appropriations Act, and we anticipate that management of the acquired lands can be accomplished with existing park resources.
Homestead National Monument of America (Monument) was established in 1936. The Monument’s enabling legislation states that the purpose of the Monument is to establish “… a proper memorial emblematical of the hardships and the pioneer life through which the early settlers passed in settlement, cultivation, and civilization of, the Great West …” The legislation also specifies that the Secretary of the Interior will “… erect suitable buildings to be used as a specific museum in which shall be preserved literature applying to such settlement and agriculture implements used to bring the western plains to its present state of high civilization, and to use the said tract of land for such other objects and purposes as in his judgment may perpetuate the history of this country mainly developed by the homestead law.”
If enacted, the bill will add four small, but important, parcels of land to the Monument. These additions will allow the opportunity for greater protection of the Monument’s primary cultural resource, will protect the Monument from encroaching development, and will provide the opportunity for improved visitor and interpretive services. The total amount of land to be added is less than 30 acres. The private landowners affected have agreed in principle to this proposed legislation and the State of Nebraska has agreed, as well, to donate its lands as provided for in the bill.
The four parcels to be added to the Monument and the purposes for the addition of each are as follows:
THE GRAFF PROPERTY: This privately owned parcel consists of approximately 15.98 acres adjacent to and overlooking the Monument’s grounds. Addition of the property would serve two purposes. First, it would ensure protection for the nation’s second oldest restored prairie, which holds important educational, research, and scientific values. Second, this property, located on higher ground, could be used as an alternative location, outside of the floodplain, for the Monument’s primary cultural resource, the Palmer-Epaid cabin, as well as the visitor facility.
PIONEER ACRES GREEN: This parcel consists of approximately 3 acres of privately owned land. Inclusion of this property in the boundary will provide additional protection to park resources from nearby development.
SEGMENT OF STATE HIGHWAY 4: This parcel consists of approximately 1.4 acres of Nebraska State Highway 4 and its addition will protect natural and archeological resources and provide a site to support education efforts through interpretive wayside exhibits. The State of Nebraska is currently examining proposals to reroute State Highway 4, which would allow for this existing road to serve as an access road to the Monument.
STATE TRIANGLE: This parcel consists of approximately 8.3 acres and is bounded by the Monument on two sides and by State Highway 4 on the third side. The property is immediately adjacent to the site of the original homestead cabin and will allow for maximizing interpretive efforts and maintaining the integrity of the Monument’s boundaries.
At the request of the landowner, the property described in subsection (b)(1) – the Graff Property – must be acquired within five years after the date of the enactment of this Act. The family, which has been a strong supporter of the Monument, made this request in order to better plan for the future and to minimize the impacts on their lives. If this legislation is enacted, meeting the request should not be difficult since the funds for acquisition have already been appropriated.
Mr. Chairman, the Department supports the enactment of H.R. 38, and we thank you again for the opportunity to appear today. This concludes my prepared remarks. I will be pleased to answer any questions you or other committee members might have.