Gulf Islands National Seashore Land Exchange Act
STATEMENT OF P. DANIEL SMITH, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, EXERCISING THE AUTHORITY OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING H.R. 2615 AND S. 1260, BILLS TO AUTHORIZE A LAND EXCHANGE BETWEEN GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE AND THE VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS POST 5699.
February 14, 2018
Chairman Daines, Ranking Member King, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 2615 and S. 1260, bills to authorize a land exchange between Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5699.
The Department supports H.R. 2615 and S. 1260. The two bills, which would resolve an access issue at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi, are drafted differently but contain substantially the same provisions. Either version is acceptable to the Department.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5699 owns a parcel that is bordered on two sides by land that is under the administrative jurisdiction of the National Park Service (NPS) and managed as part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. The VFW property is not connected to a public road, and its only access is across NPS lands.
Under a previous informal agreement with the National Seashore, the VFW created and maintained a one-lane dirt access road across NPS property from the public road to its building. The VFW also removed vegetation and mowed NPS property adjacent to that access road. No right-of-way or special use permit was ever issued.
In 2015, the VFW approached the National Seashore with a proposal to exchange 2.16 acres of undeveloped land, adjacent to NPS land, at the south end of its property for 1.54 acres of NPS land in order to connect its property to the public road. This land exchange would formalize the existing land use, providing the VFW with ownership and permanent access, and providing the National Seashore undeveloped acreage adjacent to other undeveloped, NPS-managed lands. These parcels are delineated on the map referenced in both bills.
H.R. 2615 and S. 1260 would authorize this land exchange. The bills would require the values of the parcels to be exchanged to be determined through an appraisal conducted by a qualified and independent appraiser and in accordance with nationally recognized appraisal standards. If the values are not equal, they would be required to be equalized through cash payments or adjustments to the acreage of the parcels. In addition, the bills would require the VFW to pay for the costs associated with the exchange, including any required costs for environmental compliance. Finally, the bills would modify the boundary of the National Seashore to reflect the land exchange upon its completion.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.