Saguaro National Park Boundary Expansion and Study Act of 2020
STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS, REGARDING H.R. 7098, A BILL TO EXPAND THE BOUNDARY OF SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK, TO STUDY ADDITIONAL LAND FOR FUTURE ADJUSTMENTS TO THE BOUNDARY OF THE PARK, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
July 13, 2020
Chair Haaland, Ranking Member Young, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 7098, to expand the boundary of Saguaro National Park, to study additional land for future adjustments to the boundary of the park, and for other purposes.
The Department does not support H.R. 7098. The Department remains primarily focused on reducing the National Park Service’s (NPS) deferred maintenance backlog and addressing other infrastructure needs.
H.R. 7098 would expand the boundary of Saguaro National Park, in the vicinity of Tucson, Arizona, in multiple areas adjacent to the Park by a cumulative total of approximately 1,150 acres and allow for the acquisition of the approximately 37 unique land parcels to be added to the Park. The bill would also allow the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement with the State for the NPS to manage State-owned land within the boundary of the Park where acquisition is not possible. While there are no State lands in the areas that would be added to the Park under this bill, there is State land within the current boundary of the Park to which this provision could apply. Finally, this legislation would authorize a boundary study to identify lands with natural, cultural, recreational and scenic values that would be a part of any future boundary adjustment at the Park.
Saguaro National Park consists of two geographically distinct units, the Rincon Mountain District, which lies to the east of Tucson, and the Tucson Mountain District, which lies west of Tucson. The Park is home to the giant saguaro cactus, the largest cacti in the United States, which has become an iconic symbol of the American Southwest. Saguaro National Monument was established by presidential proclamation in 1933 to protect these majestic plants. The national monument was expanded by a second proclamation in 1961 and established as a national park by Public Law 103-364 in 1994. The Park currently encompasses approximately 91,716 acres of land. On average, more than one million visitors come to the Park each year, and in 2019, visitation to the Park generated approximately $90.9 million in economic activity in local gateway communities.
H.R. 7098 would, by expanding the boundary of the Park to include non-federal lands, authorize the NPS to acquire those non-federal lands. The additional lands within the expanded boundaries consist of relatively small tracts owned by private landowners, or local governments. The legislation would also authorize the NPS to acquire those non-federal lands in certain circumstances without the consent of the landowner. The Department is opposed to legislation that would provide for non-federal lands to be acquired without owner consent.
Additionally, although it appears that the boundary expansion itself will not increase the costs of administration of the Park, the Department remains concerned with the long-term costs of ownership of any acquired parcel within the revised boundary, including the costs of the maintenance or repair of any existing infrastructure.
For these reasons, the Department does not support H.R. 7098. The Department urges the Committee to pass legislation reducing the NPS’ deferred maintenance backlog and addressing other infrastructure needs.
Chair Haaland, this concludes our statement.