Peter J. McGuire Labor Day Landmark Act
STATEMENT OF DAVID VELA, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OPERATIONS, EXERCISING THE AUTHORITY OF THE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS, CONCERNING H.R. 2317, A BILL TO DESIGNATE THE PETER J. MCGUIRE MEMORIAL AND PETER J. MCGUIRE GRAVESITE LOCATED IN PENNSAUKEN, NEW JERSEY, AS A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
DECEMBER 4, 2019
Chairwoman Haaland, Ranking Member Young, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 2317, a bill to designate the Peter J. McGuire Memorial and Peter J. McGuire Gravesite located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, as a National Historic Landmark, and for other purposes.
The Department appreciates the desire of the bill’s sponsor to bring greater recognition to the history of the labor movement and specifically to Peter J. McGuire’s story; however, we do not support H.R. 2317 as we believe that it would be unwise to legislatively designate the combined sites as a National Historic Landmark, as the bill would do. We believe the most appropriate way to pursue National Historic Landmark status is through the well-established administrative process and would be happy to work with the sponsor of the bill on the steps in that process.
Peter J. McGuire was a national leader in the labor movement during the 19th century. He founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and is widely acknowledged as the “father” of Labor Day. Upon his death in 1906, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners commissioned the granite headstone at his gravesite in the Arlington Cemetery in Pennsauken, New Jersey. In 1952, the centennial of his birth, the organizations that he helped found sponsored the design, construction, and dedication of the Peter J. McGuire Memorial, also in Pennsauken.
The designation of the Peter J. McGuire Memorial and his gravesite as a National Historic Landmark would circumvent a well-established administrative action. This existing process provides an opportunity for local input and scholarly review and ensures that all nominated properties meet the Secretary of the Interior’s criteria for a National Historic Landmark. We are concerned that establishing a National Historic Landmark by legislation would encourage advocates for other properties to seek National Historic Landmark status by legislation in order to avoid the requirements of the administrative path. That could lead to National Historic Landmark designation for properties that do not meet the standards that all other properties have had to meet in order to merit that designation.
Finally, this bill would authorize the Secretary to enter into cooperative agreements with public and private entities, and to provide technical and financial assistance to these entities, for the purposes of protecting historic resources, and providing educational and interpretive facilities and programs for the public, at the site. The Department does not see a compelling reason to authorize such assistance for this particular site, especially at a time when we need to reduce the $11.9 billion backlog of deferred maintenance in national parks and address other critical park needs.
Ms. Chairwoman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.