STATEMENT OF deTEEL PATTERSON TILLER, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR CULTURAL RESOURCES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 425, TO REVISE THE BOUNDARY OF WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK IN THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department on S. 425, a bill to revise the boundary of Wind Cave National Park in the State of South Dakota.
The Department does not support S. 425 at this time because of the high costs of this boundary expansion. The Department strongly supports the President’s commitment to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog in our national parks. We need to continue to focus our resources on taking care of existing areas in the National Park System.
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.
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.