STATEMENT OF SUE MASICA, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, 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. 500, TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO STUDY CERTAIN SITES IN THE HISTORIC DISTRICT OF BEAUFORT, SOUTH CAROLINA, RELATING TO THE RECONSTRUCTION ERA.

MAY 13, 2003


 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 500. This bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to study certain sites in the historic district of Beaufort, South Carolina, relating to the Reconstruction Era of United States history.

The Department supports S. 500, with the amendments described in this testimony. On June 20, 2002, the Department testified in support of S. 2388, a similar bill, with suggested amendments. Several of the amendments were adopted and S. 500 is almost identical to S. 2388 as passed by the Senate in the 107th Congress.

The cost of the studies should be $350,000 for the theme study and $250,000 for the special resource study, although the final cost of the special resource study may be less due to some degree of examination that the Beaufort area sites would receive as a part of the larger theme study. National Historic Landmark theme studies are funded from a variety of sources including, in some cases, the special resource study budget, which is about $1 million in FY 2003. There are 29 studies previously authorized by Congress that are being funded from the special resource study budget, nearly half of which will have at least some funding needs beyond Fiscal Year 2003. We transmitted 6 special resource studies to Congress in Fiscal Year 2002, and we expect to transmit about 15 this fiscal year or early next fiscal year. Our highest priority is to complete pending studies, though we expect to start newly authorized studies as soon as funds are made available.

S. 500 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of historical sites in the historic district of Beaufort, South Carolina, relating to the Reconstruction Era. The study would evaluate the sites' national significance and the suitability and feasibility of designating them as a unit of the National Park System. The bill specifies that the study be conducted in accordance with P.L. 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-1 et seq.), which contains the criteria for studying areas for potential inclusion in the National Park System, with the study to be completed within three years after funds are made available.

In addition, the Secretary is authorized to conduct a national historic landmark theme study to identify sites and resources in the United States that are significant to the Reconstruction Era. The study will include recommendations for commemorating and interpreting sites and resources that should be nominated as national historic landmarks and sites for which further study for potential inclusion in the National Park System should be authorized. This study is also to be concluded within three years after funds are made available. Although historians generally view the Beaufort sites that would be studied under S. 500 as historically significant, the National Park Service has not determined how significant these sites are in comparison to other sites associated with Reconstruction. The theme study would help provide that information.

The Reconstruction Era is generally considered to be the period between 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, and the withdrawal of Federal troops from the South following the Compromise of 1877 that resolved the contested presidential election of 1876. The term "Reconstruction" reflects both the literal rebuilding of the war-ravaged South and the more metaphorical rebuilding of the Union following the divisive and destructive conflict. It was a controversial, difficult, and violent period in American history characterized by the adoption of new constitutional amendments and laws, the establishment of new institutions, and the occurrence of significant political events all surrounding the efforts to reincorporate the South into the Union and to provide newly freed slaves with political rights and opportunities to improve their lives.

The Beaufort, South Carolina area contains a number of sites that are associated with events and individuals significant to the Reconstruction Era. Among these are the Penn School on St. Helena Island, the location of an important educational experiment in that era; the Freedmen's Bureau, located at Beaufort College, where the Federal Government conducted official business regarding emancipated slaves; the Freedman's Village of Mitchellville on Hilton Head Island; and sites associated with Robert Smalls, an African-American who served in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Reconstruction Era.

The Department recommends some clarifying amendments to S. 500. We recommend that the title, Section 1, and the definition for Study Area in Section 2 be changed to reflect that the study would center on sites in Beaufort County, South Carolina, rather then the historic district of Beaufort. As drafted, the bill defines the study area as sites in the historic district of Beaufort, but then it identifies several sites to be studied that are outside of the city of Beaufort.

We also recommend that the special resource study be required to determine the "national significance" of the area as well as its suitability and feasibility for inclusion in the National Park System. This change would be consistent with P.L. 91-383, as amended by the National Park Service Omnibus Management Act of 1998 (P.L 105-391).

The text for these recommended amendments is attached to this testimony.

That concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee may have.

Proposed Amendments, S. 500
Page 1, Line 4, insert "County" after "Beaufort".
Page 2, Line 3, strike "the historic district of".
Page 2, Line 3, insert "County" after Beaufort".
Page 2, Line 22, strike "assess the suitability" and insert "assess the national significance, suitability,".
Amend the title to read, "To direct the Secretary of the Interior to study certain sites in Beaufort County, South Carolina, relating to the Reconstruction Era."