STATEMENT OF PEGGY O'DELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE, CONCERNING S. 883, A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE NATIONAL MALL LIBERTY FUND D.C. TO ESTABLISH A MEMORIAL ON FEDERAL LAND IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA TO HONOR FREE PERSONS AND SLAVES WHO FOUGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE, LIBERTY, AND JUSTICE FOR ALL DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
JULY 28, 2011
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 883, a bill to authorize the National Mall Liberty Fund D.C. to establish a memorial on federal land in the District of Columbia to honor free persons and slaves who fought for independence, liberty, and justice for all during the American Revolution.
The Department supports S. 883 if amended to conform to the principles, processes, and requirements set forth in the Commemorative Works Act, which has successfully guided the process for establishing monuments in the nation's capital since it was enacted in 1986 and as amended since that time.
The bill would authorize the establishment of a memorial on federal land in Area I in the District of Columbia to recognize and commemorate the contributions of 5,000 African Americans who served as soldiers and sailors or provided civilian assistance during the American Revolutionary War. The bill prohibits the use of federal funds to establish the memorial, directs that the memorial be established according to the Commemorative Works Act, and repeals two laws for the authorization and site selection of a similar memorial proposal that have already lapsed by operation of law.
In 1986, Congress enacted the Commemorative Works Act to guide the process for establishing memorials in the nation's capital. Since its enactment, the Act has played an important role in ensuring that memorials in the nation's capital are located, designed and erected in a manner that is worthy of their historically significant subjects. The act was amended in 2003 to, among other things, provide for establishment of the Reserve where no additional memorials may be located.
While S. 883 states that the memorial shall be established in accordance with the Commemorative Works Act, the bill contravenes a critical requirement of the Commemorative Works Act by pre-authorizing the memorial to be located within Area I. In effect, the bill directs that the memorial be located within Area I without benefit of public participation or the participation of the Secretary of the Interior, circumventing the process Congress has adhered to since 1986. This preempts the Secretary's responsibility to recommend Area I designations to Congress for Congress to consider and act upon, and it curtails the roles of the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts.
The Commemorative Works Act, as amended, designates federal land in two areas in the District of Columbia and environs on which memorials could be sited within the District of Columbia, and one area, known as the Reserve, where no additional memorials can be located. These areas are depicted on the attached map which is designated in the Act. All memorials authorized to be located on this federal land in the District of Columbia and environs are authorized to seek sites within the portion of the map designated as Area II. However, a new memorial may be located in Area I only if the Secretary determines, after 3 consulting with the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, which holds public meetings, that the memorial's subject warrants location in Area I, and if the Congress agrees with the Secretary's determination by passing legislation to this effect within 150 days. Area I is within the Monumental Core of the Nation's Capital extending from Third Street, N.W. to the eastern boundary of Arlington National Cemetery and along the shoreline on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.
The Department's position regarding adherence to the Commemorative Works Act process for Area I designation is consistent with the position taken by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, which reviewed S. 883 at its public meeting on June 23, 2011. The Commission recommended support for S. 883 if brought into conformance with the Commemorative Works Act by deleting the word "preeminent" in Section 1, and the reference to Area I in Section 2(A)(i).
In the Department's view, following the Commemorative Works Act would not hinder the Liberty Memorial Foundation in its ability to establish this memorial. In fact, if the Foundation obtains an Area I designation through the Commemorative Works Act process, the Foundation's 7-year statutory period to establish the memorial is automatically extended seven more years, beginning on the enactment of the Area I designation, instead of expiring at the 7-year point. This change to give sponsors seven more years for a memorial when seeking an Area I designation, was made by Congress when it amended the Commemorative Works Act in 2003, and as a result, sponsors no longer need to factor into their goals that seeking an Area I designation would reduce the time available to them to locate, fund and design their memorials.
We also would point out that S. 883 makes no provisions for the disposition of monies raised in excess of funds needed for the establishment of the memorial or to hold in reserve the amount available should the authority to establish the memorial lapse. The Department recommends that the bill be amended to clarify the disposition of these funds.
The Department reiterates our support of the establishment of a memorial in the Nation's Capital that recognizes and commemorates the contributions of African Americans who fought for independence, liberty and justice during the Revolutionary War. We look forward to the opportunity to work with the Subcommittee to develop language that would provide for such authorization in a manner consistent with the principles, processes, and requirements set forth by existing authorities.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my prepared testimony, I would be glad to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee may have.