STATEMENT OF PEGGY O'DELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS OF THE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES CONCERNING H.R. 3222, A BILL TO DESIGNATE CERTAIN NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM LAND IN OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK AS WILDERNESS OR POTENTIAL WILDERNESS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
December 2, 2011
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 3222, a bill to designate certain National Park System land in Olympic National Park as wilderness or potential wilderness, and for other purposes.
The Department supports H.R. 3222.The legislation would designate approximately 4,100 acres of land currently within the boundary of Olympic National Park as additions to the existing Olympic Wilderness.It would also designate approximately 11 acres as potential wilderness.
On October 5, 2011, the Committee on Natural Resources reported H.R. 1162, a bill to provide the Quileute Indian Tribe tsunami and flood protection, with an amendment that deleted the wilderness designation section of the legislation.The wilderness designation proposed by H.R. 3222 is the same wilderness designation that was originally found in H.R. 1162.While the Department is very supportive of the need for providing the Quileute Tribe with land to relocate its housing, offices, and school outside of the tsunami and flood zones, the deletion of the wilderness provisions of the carefully balanced agreement in H.R. 1162 was unfortunate.
On September 15, 2011, the Department expressed its support for H.R. 1162 at a Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands hearing.We noted that the Olympic National Park lands to be transferred to the Tribe are 275 acres of elevated "uplands", of which approximately 220 acres are designated as wilderness, and are located in the park but adjacent to the current reservation's southern boundary.The lands would be transferred in trust to the United States for the benefit of the Quileute Tribe and the boundaries of the reservation and the park would be changed to accommodate the transfer.This transferred upland tract would allow for relocation of tribal buildings outside of the tsunami and flood zones.However, this loss of prime wilderness land was to have been offset by the designation of other lands as wilderness in an agreement among all involved parties including the tribe.
H.R. 3222 would designate approximately 4,100 acres along Lake Crescent as wilderness.The wilderness boundary along the lake would be set back a sufficient distance to allow management of the historic World War I Spruce Railroad grade as the Olympic Discovery Trail, and to allow for operation and maintenance of the existing county road.Another parcel of approximately 11 acres in Boulder Creek would be designated as potential wilderness.When conditions in the Boulder Creek Addition are no longer incompatible with the Wilderness Act, and notification of such has been published in the Federal Register, the potential wilderness will become designated wilderness.The Department agrees that tsunami and flood protection for the Quileute tribe is an important goal, as is resolution of its long-standing boundary concerns.Wilderness protection is also an important goal.This bill, together with H.R. 1162, represents an appropriate way to accomplish these objectives.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement.I would be pleased to respond to any questions you or the other members of the subcommittee may have.