STATEMENT BY KATHERINE STEVENSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR CULTURAL RESOURCES STEWARDSHIP AND PARTNERSHIPS, 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. 1946, TO AMEND THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT TO DESIGNATE THE OLD SPANISH TRAIL AS A NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL.

 

MARCH 7, 2002


 

 

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1946, a bill to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the Old Spanish Trail as a National Historic Trail.

 

The Department thanks Senator Campbell for his continued interest and support of the Old Spanish Trail.  However, we recommend that the committee defer action on S. 1946 during the remainder of the 107th Congress.  To meet the Administration’s 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.  Administrative costs for this trail are estimated to initially be $100,000 to $200,000 yearly increasing up to $750,000 or more each year once the trail is fully operational.  Land acquisition costs are difficult to estimate since acquisition is subject to willing sellers and local cost comparables but typically in trails of this type little if any land is acquired.  At such time as this legislation moves forward, we suggest that the bill be amended as outlined in this testimony.   

 

The National Park Service was authorized to study the Old Spanish Trail by Public Law 104-333, Section 402.  The final study concluded that the trail met all national historic trail criteria as defined by the study provisions of the National Trails System Act (P.L. 90-543).  The study was presented to the National Park System Advisory Board and the board concurred with the findings.

 

The draft study released in July, 2000 included a finding that there was insufficient historical information to recommend designation as a national historic trail.  During the comment period, the National Park Service continued to research trail history and consult with historians in the United States and Mexico.  The designation determination was made based upon the theme of the "Changing Role of the United States in the World Community" with specific emphasis on the topic of commerce during the period 1829 to 1848, and the impacts of legal and illegal trade upon the American Indian nations along the trail.

 

S. 1946 would add the Old Spanish Trail as a national historic trail component of the National Trails System.  It would designate the primary route of the trail, the Armijo Route and the North Branch, along with some shorter variations of these routes, totaling approximately 3,500 miles.  The trail begins in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and runs through the states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, before ending in Los Angeles, California.

 

The bill states that the trail would be administered by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service.  As provided for in the National Trails System Act, on non-Federal lands, the trail would be established only when landowners voluntarily request certification of their sites and segments.  No land or interest in land outside the exterior boundaries of any federally administered area may be acquired by the United States for the trail, except with the consent of the owner of the land.

 

The Old Spanish Trail was the first viable overland trade route between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California, the two most important provincial capitals in the Southwest in the early nineteenth century.  New Mexican trader Antonio Armijo blazed the trail in 1829, when he led a caravan laden with New Mexico’s woolen goods to Los Angeles to trade for horses and mules that were abundant on the ranches of southern California.   

 

News of Armijo’s feat encouraged other traders to attempt the dangerous overland route.  In 1830, two American traders blazed a more northerly route that followed river valleys through Colorado and Utah before reuniting with Armijo’s route in Nevada.  Over the next two decades, annual mule caravans carried goods from New Mexico to California over these variants of the Old Spanish Trail.  The caravans returned with massive herds of horses and mules that were traded in Santa Fe for Mexican silver, that traders brought up the Camino Real, or American manufactured goods brought across the plains on the Santa Fe Trail.  After the United States won control of the Southwest from Mexico, traders and emigrants found other, more accommodating, routes to California.  By 1849, use of the Old Spanish Trail faded.

 

Partnerships are essential for the preservation and interpretation of Old Spanish Trail resources, from trail remnants to archeological sites. With continued and ever-increasing public interest to help commemorate the trail, opportunities for partnerships are very promising.  Organizations, such as the Old Spanish Trail Association, expressed their eagerness to help with the trail during the study process.  Long-term success of the trail would depend on continued involvement from partners, landowners, other organizations, and individuals, as well as the States of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. 

 

In the future if the bill moves forward, we would recommend that S. 1946 be amended by changing “map” to “maps” on page 2, line 8 and “A map” to “The maps” on page 2 line 11.  A total of nine maps are used in the Old Spanish Trail National Historic Trail Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment to describe the location of the trail.   

 

Also, although the National Park Service completed the feasibility and suitability study, and would be pleased to administer the trail, there are many agencies involved in administering the lands that the trail passes through.  For example, the Bureau of Land Management manages over 800 miles of the trail as it passes through Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.  We would suggest amending paragraph (C) to state that the trail will be administered by the Secretary of the Interior by striking “acting through the Director of the National Park Service”.  This will make the bill consistent with the National Trails System Act which specifies that the Secretary designate the agency to administer a trail.  

 

We appreciate the subcommittee’s interest in this legislation.  This concludes my remarks and I would be happy to respond to any questions that you may have.