A bill to amend the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act to extend the authorization for the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission
STATEMENT OF DR. STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, PARTNERSHIPS, AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2839 AND H.R. 3004, BILLS TO AMEND THE GULLAH/GEECHEE CULTURAL HERITAGE ACT TO EXTEND THE AUTHORIZATION FOR THE GULLAH/GEECHEE CULTURAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR COMMISSION
JUNE 15, 2016
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2839 and H.R. 3004, bills to amend the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act to extend the authorization for the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission.
The Department supports S. 2839 and H.R. 3004, which are virtually identical.
Both bills would extend the authorization for the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission (Commission) to serve as the local coordinating entity for the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (Corridor) an additional five years, through October 12, 2021. This extension of authority would match the authorization for the Corridor to receive Federal funding. If reauthorized, the Commission, as the local coordinating entity, would continue to implement the management plan for the Corridor, developed in 2013, and would be eligible to receive Federal grant money and technical assistance.
The Department recognizes the important work of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and their efforts to highlight, interpret, and preserve the important contributions of the African Americans known as Gullah/Geechee in coastal counties of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to American history and culture.
The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor comprises approximately 12,800 square miles from the northern border of Pender County, North Carolina, to the southern boundary of St. Johns County, Florida. Extending 425 miles along the coast and 30 miles inland, it encompasses all or part of 27 counties in four states and covers an area larger than Maryland and Delaware combined. The entire Corridor has been identified as an ethnographic resource for its rich cultural complexity, which expresses itself in its folk life and traditions such as foodways, music, language and oral traditions, craft traditions, and religion and spirituality. The Corridor’s mission is three-fold, and centers around: preservation of land, language, and culture; public education of Gullah/Geechee culture; and, supporting Gullah/Geechee communities.
The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act charged the Commission, as the local coordinating entity, with preparing and submitting a management plan to the Secretary. The Commission was further charged with conducting public meetings on, and assisting units of local government with, the management plan’s implementation. The extension of the Commission’s authorization will allow the critical time needed to implement the plan’s recommendations.
To date, the Commission has already taken steps such as: providing outreach education materials to State welcome centers; providing highway Corridor marker signs along U.S. Highway 17; providing education programs to schools and groups; and, developing and supporting the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor website. The Commission has also served as a consulting party on several items of concern to communities within the Corridor including the planning of the U.S. Forest Service/U.S Army Corps of Engineers McClellanville transmission line project and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Environmental Assessment for offshore commercial wind leasing in South Carolina.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.