AUTHORIZATION OF AGATE FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT, 1965 (continued)
Progress of House and Senate Hearings
In the initial hours of the First Session of the 89th Congress, identical bills "To provide for the establishment of the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in the State of Nebraska, and for other purposes" were again introduced. In the Senate, the measure was S. 339, while in the House, H.R. 500. On January 10, 1965, the directors of the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Association met at the Agate Springs Ranch. They voted to send Father Robert O'Neill to the capital to lobby committee members and other officials to ensure early passage of the two bills. Father O'Neill left for Washington, D.C., on January 18. 
On February 2, Representative Dave Martin urged the House Interior Committee to hold early hearings on his bill. In an appeal to each member of the National Parks and Recreation Subcommittee, he called for immediate action to preserve the site.  Martin's effort bore fruit. Three weeks later, a March 2 hearing date was scheduled. 
Scotts Bluff Superintendent Keith Miller met with Margaret Cook and Lester Danielson on February 16 to draft a letter which Dave Martin requested from the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Association. The letter indicated the Association's support of H.R. 500. In a subsequent public meeting where Father O'Neill related his discussions with various congressmen in Washington, D.C., Miller was startled that the Service's land appraisal was prematurely divulged. Miller informed the Regional Director:
On March 1, Assistant Secretary of the Interior John M. Kelly supplied a report on H.R. 500 to Rep. Wayne N. Aspinall, Chairman of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Assistant Secretary Kelly set forth the Department's proposal. With acquisition limitation of 3,150 acres at an estimated $301,150, the Department set the cost of development at $1,842,000, and anticipated annual operating expenditures of $51,000 the first year and $106,000 after the five-year development plan. The Department suggested three amendments. The first amendment clarified the language in the section on land acquisition. A second amendment provided authorization to acquire a road right-of-way between the principal quarries and the Stenomylus Quarry. The final amendment revised the sentence dealing with establishment and boundary adjustments to read:
On March 2, the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on National Parks and Recreation, held a fifty-minute hearing. Margaret C. Cook, Dr. C. C. Black of the Carnegie Museum, and Dr. Malcolm C. McKenna of the American Museum of Natural History were present to testify. With Chairman Ralph J. Rivers (D.-Alaska) presiding, Rep. Dave Martin introduced his bill and briefly discussed the historical significance of the Agate Fossil Beds. Rep. Roy A. Taylor (D.-N.C.) demanded to know why the State of Nebraska did not use the Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire the land. Martin dismissed the inquiry, stating Nebraska could not manage the area even with the new funds,* but Congress should act to authorize the area before the 1967 centennial. He then submitted for the record letters of recommendation by Senators Hruska and Curtis, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Western Nebraska United Chambers of Commerce, and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Association. 
A statement by Assistant Director Howard W. Baker was submitted for the record  before Margaret Cook recited a brief history of the area for the committee. No mention was made of ownership or donation rights. The most persuasive testimony came from Dr. Malcolm C. McKenna:
Dr. McKenna testified that the fossil beds were not mined out, but seventy-five percent of the bones remained. "It is like a good many mines," he commented:
In response to the statement that the boundaries appeared to encompass an area greater than required, Dr. C. C. Black declared that fossils existed throughout the area. Although it was true the richest concentrations were in the hill quarries, the banks of the Niobrara were also fossiliferous. 
Director George B. Hartzog, Jr., testified before the same House subcommittee in a fifteen-minute hearing on March 16. In a prepared statement, Hartzog declared approval of the bill would allow the Park Service to:
Rep. John P. Saylor (R.-Pa.) asked Director Hartzog his opinion of the meaning of a telegram the committee received from the law firm of Wright, Simmons and Hancock of Scottsbluff: "Re Agate Springs Park, committee should realize that tender donation does not include land on which fossil deposits are located, that donor has only a life estate of heavily encumbered land to donate." Hartzog was at a loss to explain the telegram, but guessed it originated from the interests in the Cook estate: "Now, with respect to the legal rights that Mrs. Cook may have with respect to that estate, I am not acquainted; . . . she proposes to donate whatever interest she has in it, and if that is not in accordance with the facts, we will clarify it for the record."  The hearing concluded with a weak request to look into the land donation question.
There is no record the Service ever clarified the matter. The evidence is clear, however, that Park Service officials were fully aware of the four Cook daughters opposition to Service plans in regard to the Agate Springs Ranch headquarters. The same applied to the legislators pushing for the bill. Kirk Coulter, an aide to Senator Roman Hruska, later wrote: "At the time the legislation was passed authorizing the Agate Monument, I do recall there was a sharp difference of feeling between Dr. Cook's widow (his second wife), and the four children by the first wife. The Park Service sided with the widow, and we went along, in order to put over the legislation,"  It was Senator Roman L. Hruska's intentand by extension, the intent of Congressthat the ranch headquarters fall within the boundaries of the proposed monument. 
On the Senate side of the Capitol, on March 8, the Department sent a status report on S. 339 to Henry M. Jackson, Chairman of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.  On April 6, the first and only hearing was held on S. 339 before the Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation. Because of the favorable outcome of the previous hearings, the proceedings of 1964 were reincorporated by reference in the 1965 session. Assistant Director Howard Baker submitted a statement similar to the one prepared for the House.  Baker was the only witness testifying. When asked to explain the discrepancy between the $275,000 for acquisition in 1964 and the current $301,000 price, Baker explained the independent Magdanz appraisal. Senator Milward L. Simpson criticized the difference stating, "The Park Service for some reason is notoriously low on their appraisals. In some instances I have seen it where it has tripled over their appraisal figures." Citing the case of Fort Larned National Historic Site, Kansas (established August 31, 1964), he declared, "I don't want to be chinchsy [sic] about it. It is unfortunate it did not get through last year when we would have paid less."  After twenty-five minutes the subcommittee went into executive session.
Last Updated: 12-Feb-2003