July 15, 2003
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 408, a bill to provide for the expansion of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to include selected acreage along the Crystal River.
The Department supports efforts to protect Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. However, in order to meet the President's Initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, we must continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System (NPS). Therefore, we recommend that the committee defer action on H.R. 408 during the 108th Congress.
H.R. 408 would redraw the boundary of the 71,192.60-acre Lakeshore to include a parcel of land that is contiguous to the existing Lakeshore. The 104.45-acre parcel encompasses 6,300 feet of frontage on the Crystal River and contains wetland, riparian, and upland habitat for a variety of species within mixed northern forests. The land appraisals have not been completed, but the estimated cost of acquiring the private land is between $7-9 million dollars.
The private landowner first proposed development, including a golf course and homes, on the parcel in the late 1980s. To protect the parcel from development, several land exchange alternatives have since then been considered by the NPS and interested parties. However, for a variety of reasons, an agreed upon exchange could not be reached. The interested parties wished to acquire NPS land that was not suitable for exchange since NPS had previously acquired it through condemnation. In addition, through the General Management Plan scoping process, 87 percent of the 850 comments received expressed opposition to any type of exchange involving NPS lands. Comments were received from local entities, interested organizations, visitors, and the general public. This legislation was proposed as a solution for the protection of the property.
The existing National Park System has more demands on it than ever before. Since 1991, 34 new units have been added to the System. These units alone in FY 2003 add $25.6 million to the System's operating budget, over $30 million in unfunded operational needs, and over $265 million in unfunded one-time projects. In addition, we have expanded a number of units over that time period. Expansions also can bring with them increases in operational costs and maintenance needs. These units and expansions include important resources that we as Americans recognize as nationally significant. Our focus now though is to take better care of the natural, cultural, and historic resources and visitor facilities already in the System.
The Department of Justice has advised that Section 1(c)(2) of the bill, as introduced, violates the Recommendations Clause of the Constitution. In addition, the fiscal year 2004 budget request has already been submitted. We recommend that this section be removed.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my prepared testimony. I would
be happy to answer any questions you or the other members of the subcommittee