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. 1925, TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO STUDY THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY OF DESIGNATING THE WACO MAMMOTH SITE AREA IN WACO, TEXAS, AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H. R. 1925. This bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating the Waco Mammoth Site in Waco, Texas as a unit of the National Park System.
The Department supports this legislation in concept and believes that it is wholly appropriate for the National Park Service to undertake a study of this nature. 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 designation of a new area.
H. R. 1925 calls for the completion of a study of the Waco Mammoth Site that determines the suitability and feasibility of designating the site as a unit of the National Park System. The bill calls for the study to be completed under the guidelines in P.L. 91-383 and submission of the study results to Congress 30 days after it has been completed.
The Waco Mammoth Site area is located near the confluence of the Brazos and the Bosque rivers in Central Texas, not far from the city of Waco. Baylor University has been investigating the site since 1978 after hearing about bones emerging from eroding creek banks that led to the uncovering of portions of five mammoths. Since then several additional mammoth remains have been uncovered - making this the largest known concentration of mammoths dying from the same event.
The discoveries have received international attention, with archeologists and paleontologists from Sweden and Great Britain visiting the site. Many of the remains have been excavated and are in storage or still being researched. The University and the city of Waco have been working together to protect the site, as well as develop further research and educational opportunities.
We recommend some technical amendments to the bill that would make it consistent with the requirements for studying new areas to be added to the National Park System that are specified in Section 303 of the National Park System Omnibus Management Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-391). P.L. 105-391 requires studies of new areas to consider whether the area under study possesses nationally significant natural or cultural resources and represents one of the most important examples of a particular resource type in the country, and is a suitable and feasible addition to the system.
To make the terms of this study consistent with those the National Park Service uses to study other potential new areas of the National Park System, we recommend referring to the study as a "special resource study," and to specifically state that the study should determine the "national significance, suitability and feasibility" of adding the Waco Mammoth Site Area to the National Park System. Also, studies of this type often involve consultation with many State and local groups and are difficult to complete in the six-month time period specified in the bill. We suggest that the report to Congress in subsection 1(c) be required within three fiscal years after the funds are first made available, which reflects the standard timing for submitting studies of this type. The proposed technical amendments are attached to this testimony.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.
Proposed technical amendments to H.R. 1925, Waco Mammoth Site Study
On page 1, line 5, strike “6 months” and insert “three years”.
On page 1, lines 7 and 8, strike “a study regarding the suitability and feasibility” and insert “a special resource study regarding the national significance, suitability, and feasibility”.