STATEMENT OF BRENDA BARRETT, NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR HERITAGE AREAS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2196, TO ESTABLISH THE NATIONAL MORMON PIONEER HERITAGE AREA IN THE STATE OF UTAH, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

 

June 20, 2002

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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. 2196, a bill to authorize the establishment of the National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area in the State of Utah.

 

While the Department recognizes the appropriateness of designating the National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area, we recommend that the Committee defer action on S. 2196 during the remainder of the 107th Congress.To meet the Presidentís initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, we need to continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System. While designation of the heritage area will not result in additional acquisition or capital costs, the authorization provides for up to $1 million per year in grant assistance costs not to exceed $10 million through the fiscal year 2020.

 

S. 2196 would establish the National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area along the Highway 89 corridor and other specified highways passing through Utahís Kane, Garfield, Piute, Sevier, Wayne and Sanpete Counties.The bill designates the Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance as the management entity for the heritage area.The Alliance is the heritage arm of the Panoramaland Resource Conservation and Development Council, which is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The bill also authorizes the development of a management plan for the heritage area.If the plan is not submitted within three years, the heritage area becomes ineligible for federal funding until a plan is submitted to the Secretary.Additionally, S. 2196 outlines the duties of the management entity and prohibits the use of federal funds to acquire real property or interests in real property. The Secretary would be authorized to provide technical and financial assistance to develop and implement the management plan.

 

The proposed National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area would help to tell the nationally significant story of the settlement of a large portion of the western United States by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.The proposed area contains the best remaining examples of a series of small agricultural communities that were typical of this Mormon colonization.

 

The settlement story builds on the story of Mormon emigration, which is preserved by the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail.The National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area would help complete this story by speaking to the hardships faced by these pioneers in creating communities in this rugged landscape and the unique pattern of settlement that at one time encompassed a major portion of the western United States.

 

In addition to this primary theme, the proposed Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area has numerous additional themes and assets.Native Americans occupied the area prior to Mormon settlement and the story of the three-way conflict between the Mormon settlers, Native Americans and the United States Army is a fascinating chapter in United States history.There is also extensive evidence of prehistoric inhabitants in the area.

The proposed heritage area is set in a dramatic and diverse natural landscape, encompassing everything from the red sandstone country to beautiful valleys to high alpine country.Recreational opportunities are plentiful; the area provides linkages to three National Parks, three National Monuments, eight State Parks, three National Forests, and many miles of Scenic Byways and Backways.The area is also unique because of the collection of artisans, craftspeople, innkeepers, outfitters, museums and tour operators that are already telling the story of the area's heritage.

 

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.Thus, through the designation of the National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area, communities of the region would be better able to understand their rich and complex heritage as well as share it with visitors to the region.

 

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 criterions.The proposed establishment is based on many years of work conducted by various local community organizations in Utah.

 

A Utah State University study, completed this year, documented the extensive heritage, recreational and educational resources within the area.It supports the designation of the area as a heritage area.It would also serve as an excellent foundation for the management plan for the heritage area, for it identifies significant resources and provides preliminary suggestions on how to improve and protect the resources of the region.Numerous additional studies have been done to evaluate the historical resources of the area, for the communities included in the proposed heritage area contain six National Historic Districts and over 4,000 buildings that are either on or have the potential to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

The Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance is governed by a board that has members from each of the six counties involved representing artists, craftspeople, heritage-related business owners, innkeepers, restaurateurs, tour operators and outfitters, county extension agents, local government representatives, county economic development directors, and organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and Main Street.This broad-based organization is representative of the strong local political support for heritage preservation and the creation of the proposed National Heritage Area.We understand that the mayors of all the communities and each of the six county commissions are supporting the proposed heritage area.

 

A number of Federal agencies, including prominently the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), are major land managers within the area covered by this legislation. For example, the BLM is the predominant Federal land manager in the southern portion of the proposed National Heritage Area which includes portions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, several visitor contact stations, and important historic and scenic sites.†† We believe that the legislation should allow for the participation of all Federal partners, along with state, tribal and local partners, in the proposed National Heritage Area.

 

Section 5(c)(1) of the bill gives the management entity the authority to make loans to various entities.Section 6 makes additional references to loans.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, and we recommend that the provisions concerning loans be removed from the bill.

 

We would also request that the boundaries be clarified to assist the Secretary in preparing a map of the proposed National Heritage Area as the bill provides.

Additionally, should the committee decide to take further action on this bill, we would be willing to provide appropriate language to address the role of all federal partners, revise the language concerning loans and clarify the boundaries.

 

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