STATEMENT OF JEFFREY K. TAYLOR, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, LEGISLATIVE AND CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2788, TO REVISE THE BOUNDARY OF WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK IN THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA.
The Department does not support S. 2788. The Department is committed to eliminating the deferred maintenance backlog. We need to continue to focus our resources on existing areas in the National Park System. For this reason, the Department will only support additions to existing parks that involve no new cost or minimal cost to the Federal government for land acquisition, operations, and maintenance.
Wind Cave National Park, established in 1903, is one of the Nation’s first national parks and the first cave set aside for protection. The cave itself, after which the park is named, is one of the world’s oldest, longest, and most complex cave systems with more than 104 miles of mapped passages. The cave is well-known for its exceptional display of boxwork, a rare honeycomb-shaped formation protruding from the cave’s ceilings and walls. While the cave is the focal point of the park, the land above the cave is equally impressive with 28,295 acres of rolling prairie, majestic forests, and pristine creeks. Legislation passed in 1912 established the Wind Cave National Game Preserve creating a permanent national range for buffalo and other Native American game animals as may be placed therein. In 1935, the Wind Cave National Game Preserve was transferred into Wind Cave National Park.
This legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to acquire 5,675 acres adjacent to Wind Cave National Park. A ranching family currently owns 5,555 acres of the land and has indicated they would be willing to sell the property to the United States as a lasting legacy to their father. Another 40 acres of land from a willing seller would preserve a viewshed for the park. The last 80 acres would be an administrative jurisdiction transfer from the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to the Director of the National Park Service. The acquisition cost for the proposal is estimated at $5 to $6 million although actual costs will not be known until the land appraisals are completed. In many cases, non-profit groups are willing to purchase the properties and hold them for a short period of time until the National Park Service is able to designate land acquisition funding.
S. 2788 would help protect the mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest and provide recreational opportunities for day-hikers and backpackers who seek solitude in the park’s backcountry. The additional land will preserve a viewshed and improve wildland fire management, helping to reduce the risk of a catastrophic wildfire. Archaeological sites, such as a thousand year-old buffalo jump over which early Native Americans once drove the bison they hunted, exist on the land presently owned by the ranching family.
The current annual base funding for Wind Cave National Park is $1.892 million. If enacted, additional funding would be required due to anticipated increases in the number of FTEs needed for increased wildlife and interpretive responsibilities. In addition, construction-funding of $1.817 million would be necessary for the removal and installation of fencing.
This concludes my prepared statement. I will be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the committee may have.