STATEMENT OF DURAND JONES, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, 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 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 Interiorís views on H. R. 1925.† This bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to determine the national significance, suitability and feasibility of designating the Waco Mammoth Site in Waco, Texas as a unit of the National Park System.† H.R. 1925 passed the House of Representatives on May 14, 2002.
The Department supports this bill.† However, the Department did not request additional funding for this study in Fiscal Year 2003.† We believe that any funding requested should be directed towards completing previously authorized studies.† Presently, there are 34 studies pending, of which we expect to transmit four to Congress by the end of 2002.† To meet the Presidentís Initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, we must continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System.† Thus, we have concerns about adding new funding requirements for new park units, national trails, wild and scenic rivers or heritage areas at the same time that we are trying to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog.† As such, the Department will identify all acquisition, one-time and operational costs of the proposed site.† At this time, those costs are unknown.
H. R. 1925 calls for the completion of a special resource study of the Waco Mammoth Site that determines the national significance, 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 not later than three years after funds are first made available for the Act.†
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.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement.† I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.†