CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 3726 is being considered on the floor on Wednesday, January 27, 2010, under a rule. This legislation was introduced by Del. Donna Christensen (D-VI) on October 6, 2009, and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which reported the bill, as amended, by a vote of 25-14 with every Republican present voting "Nay." On January 20, 2010, the bill failed on a suspension of the rules by a vote of 241-173. The legislation is being considered on Wednesday, January 27, 2009, under a rule requiring a simple majority vote for passage.
H.R. 3726 would establish the Castle Nugent Farms National Historic site in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a unit of the National Park Service (NPS). The site would be comprised of approximately 8,600 submerged acres and 2,900 acres of privately owned land. The legislation would authorize the Secretary of Interior to acquire lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of the historic site.
The legislation states that the Secretary shall administer the site in order to preserve, protect, and interpret a "Caribbean cultural landscape that spans more than 300 years of agricultural use." The Secretary would be required to submit a management plan for the site within three years of funds being made available for land acquisition. According to CBO, it will cost $45 million to acquire the entirety of the land within the new historic site over ten years.
National Historic Sites are areas that have been deemed to be nationally and historically significant and are managed by the NPS to protect the significance of the location. Typically, a site is studied for a period of time by the NPS, which makes a determination as to whether the site should receive a designation and makes a recommendation to Congress. According to House Report 111-393, the final NPS report on the establishment of the Castle Nugent National Historic Site has not been completed.
The Castle Nugent Farms area is located on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands and contains a number of old Danish farms and plantations. The Castle Nugent Farms cattle ranch is one of the oldest farms in the West Indies and portions of the ranch currently serve as guest homes for vacationers. The farms are also used to breed Senepol, a breed of cattle that was specifically adapted to be raised on the islands.
According to CBO, the entire parcel of 2,900 acres of non-submerged land would cost $45 million and take ten years to acquire. CBO also states that the bill does not contain any private sector mandates on property owners because "NPS indicates that it expects to acquire properties for the Castle Nugent National Historic Site without using condemnation" (emphasis added). While NPS does not expect to use condemnation-the use of eminent domain by the government to acquire private land-the bill does not specifically prohibit the Secretary from doing so. According to CBO, the use of eminent domain to acquire certain lands is still possible. "If, however, the Secretary determines that condemnation is necessary to acquire a property, such use of condemnation would be a private-sector mandate," CBO states. Some Members may be concerned that the underlying legislation could potentially be used by the federal government to acquire private land without the consent of the owner. Some Members may also be concerned that the legislation establishes a new national historic site before a NPS study of the effects of the designation has been finalized.
Because of these concerns, which could not be addressed by amendment under a suspension of the rules, the bill failed to get a two-thirds majority and failed by a vote of 241-173. The bill will now be considered under a rule, requiring a simple majority vote for passage.
According to CBO, H.R. 3726 would cost $26 million over five years for the NPS to acquire land and develop a management plan.