The 110th Congress is Now History – What Were the Results for the NPS?

A report released by the NPS Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs offers a summary of park-related actions by the 110th Congress, which ended its work last month. For benefit of those who are interested in the details, links to sites with more information on key actions have been included below for your browsing pleasure.

Several pieces of legislation were signed into law during 2007-2008, but Congress also left a large number of bills that were ready for final approval to be taken up anew by the 111th Congress. The new Congress convenes on January 6th.

Legislative achievements during the just-completed session include significant boundary expansions for:

Shiloh National Military Park (Corinth, Mississippi unit),
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado,
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in North Carolina, and
• Minidoka Internment National Monument in Idaho, where the boundary was expanded substantially to include the Japanese-American Memorial at Bainbridge Island, Washington. The area's name was changed to Minidoka National Historic Site.

By Presidential Proclamation, the USS Arizona Memorial was incorporated into the new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The proclamation added new NPS stewardship responsibilities at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and at the Tule Lake Segregation Center in California, one of 10 World War II Japanese-American internment camps.

The Eightmile River in Connecticut was added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and the Star-Spangled Banner Trail in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia was designated a National Historic Trail.

Three new National Heritage Areas were designated:
• Journey Through Hallowed Ground in Virginia and Pennsylvania,
• Niagara Falls in New York, and
• Abraham Lincoln in Illinois.

The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program received a substantial increase in its authorization for annual funding for preserving historic resources and promoting education.

Natural resource protection got a boost from legislation that allows NPS to use funds to collaborate with partners to combat invasive species and address other natural resource issues on lands outside park boundaries. Congress also repealed a previously enacted law that would have interfered with the planned removal of nonnative elk and deer from Santa Rosa Island at Channel Islands National Park in California.

The National Park Service’s three Job Corps Centers—Great Onyx in Kentucky, Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, and Oconaluftee in Tennessee—were authorized for transfer to the U.S. Forest Service, and the transfers have been completed.

While the number of measures that reached final passage in the 110th Congress was less than average, the volume of legislative activity was as great as ever. Members of the House and Senate introduced over 400 NPS-related bills in 2007 and 2008.

Committees held hearings on more than 180 of those bills, far more than average for one Congress. They also held oversight hearings on 19 subjects and twice held hearings for NPS appropriations.

At the time Congress adjourned for the year, an omnibus public lands bill was ready for consideration on the Senate floor. That package included 78 NPS-related proposals: new designations and expansions for NPS units, wild and scenic rivers, national trails, wilderness areas, national heritage areas, as well as studies, commissions, and various authority changes.

Also left to the 111th Congress was the authorization of a long-term funding source for partnership projects leading up to the NPS Centennial in 2016.

A list of the NPS-related bills enacted during the 110th Congress can be found here.

The new Congress and new administration will have plenty on their collective plates between the economy, national security, Iraq and Afghanistan and other issues. How well national parks will fare in the big picture remains to be seen, but the upcoming year promises to be anything but boring.