The U.S. Interior Department is against adding the Rim of the Valley Corridor to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area, and it won’t take a stand on the proposed St. Francis Dam Memorial legislation because it’s an issue for the Agriculture Department, not the Interior Department.
So said P. Daniel Smith, deputy director of the National Park Service, who testified on about 25 pending bills Wednesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on National Parks.
Among the bills were S.1993, the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein,D-Calif.; and S.1926/HR 2156, the St. Francis Dam Memorial Act, sponsored respectively by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.
As detailed here, the Rim of the Valley bill would protect the critical wildlife corridor from future development.
“The Department does not support S.1993, which would adjust the boundary of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area to include the area known as the Rim of the Valley Corridor,” Smith told the panel.
Smith offered no explanation for the Interior Department’s non-support in his remarks to the Committee, but also submitted written testimony which reads as follows:
“The Department recognizes that a special resource study has found that the expansion of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (NRA) proposed by S.1993 meets the National Park Service’s criteria for addition to the National Park System.
“However, because we are focusing resources on reducing the National Park Service’s $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog and addressing other critical national park needs, the Department does not support enacting this proposed expansion at this time.”
The St. Francis Dam proposal would memorialize the site of the 1928 St Francis Dam Disaster in the Santa Clarita Valley’s San Francisquito Canyon and honor the estimated 411 people who perished when the dam broke. Read more about it here.
“The Department (of the Interior) defers to the Department of Agriculture for a position on S.1926 and HR 2156 because those bills would authorize a national memorial on U.S. Forest Service land,” Smith said.
It was unclear why the dam bill was calendared for a hearing in the Subcommittee on National Parks in the first place.
Representatives from Harris’s, Knight’s and Feinstein’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for clarification and information about possible next steps for the two bills.
During his testimony, Smith also expressed the Interior Department’s support for three other sites that are on a parallel track for designation as national monuments – legislatively, and by executive order from President Trump using the Antiquities Act.
The three bills are:
S.2889 (Wicker) / H.R. 4895 (Thompson), to establish the Medgar Evers National Monument in the State of Mississippi, and for other purposes;
S.3176 (McConnell) / HR 5979 (Rogers), to establish the Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in the State of Kentucky as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes;
S.3287 (McConnell) / HR 5655 (Barr), to establish the Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument in the State of Kentucky as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes.
“All three of these sites are designated national historic landmarks and all three are owned by organizations that have indicated a desire to donate the properties to the National Park Service,” Smith said.
“These sites offer exceptional opportunities for the National Parks System to increase its ability to preserve and interpret the story of the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement in this nation,” he said.
“In tandem with supporting the legislative efforts of the sponsors of these three pieces of legislation, the (Interior) Department is working on a parallel effort to prepare for the potential designation of these sites as National Monuments under the Antiquities Act,” Smith said.
“The National Parks Service has opened a 30-day public comment period on all three of these designations to garner public input,” he said. “Either through legislation or through the use of the Antiquities Act, we hope to see the vision of these three units become reality.”
Rim of the Valley Corridor