S. 651 and H.R. 1289, John Muir National Historic Site Expansion Act
STATEMENT OF PEGGY O’DELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR OPERATIONS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 651 and H.R. 1289, BILLS TO ADJUST THE BOUNDARY OF JOHN MUIR NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE TO ACCEPT A LAND DONATION.
March 17, 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. 651 and H.R. 1289, bills to adjust the boundary of John Muir National Historic Site to accept a land donation, and for other purposes.
The Department strongly supports this legislation to adjust the boundary of John Muir National Historic Site (park) by 44 acres, but we recommend the committee conform the language of S 651 to that of H.R. 1289 for the reasons described below. The boundary adjustment would help the National Park Service (NPS) protect the southern boundary from potential development and also help to preserve the scenic and biological resources of this property.
The proposed boundary modification includes 44 acres of land acquired by the John Muir Land Trust (formerly the Muir Heritage Lands Trust) adjacent to the southern boundary of the park. The John Muir Land Trust (Trust), a local land trust preserving open space in Contra Costa County, acquired the property in May 2015. The Trust pursued the acquisition for a number of years in an attempt to prevent development adjacent to the park’s south boundary, with the intent of donating the land to the NPS to become part of the park. S. 651 requires that the Trust acquire the land by August 31, 2015, while H.R. 1289 has no similar language. We prefer the House language because the Trust has already acquired the land.
The parcel was originally part of the John Swett Ranch, a neighbor and friend of John Muir, and there are no structures present on the property. The property is critical habitat for the Alameda whipsnake, federally listed as threatened. This acquisition would open up the area to recreational uses that are currently inaccessible to the public, but compatible with the protection and preservation of the plant communities and critical species habitat. There are existing unimproved roads on the site, which connect to the exiting trail access in the park and would require little if any improvements for immediate use.
The boundary modification is supported by the City of Martinez. It is not anticipated that any facilities would be proposed for the 44-acre parcel due to its current undeveloped and undisturbed condition. Therefore, there would be minimal cost associated with the long-term operation and maintenance of the property, which would be easily absorbed into the current operations of the park. The property is being donated, so acquisition costs are not an issue.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have