STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
By Mr. CHAMBLISS (for himself and Mr. Miller):
S. 1462. A bill to adjust the boundary of the Cumberland Island Wilderness, to authorize tours of the Cumberland Island National Seashore, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Cumberland Island National Seashore Wilderness Boundary Act. With the introduction of this important legislation, we will be able to better preserve and manage one of Georgia's unique islands. The purpose of this bill is to allow for more efficient management of the Cumberland Island National Seashore and to preserve the historical and ecological significance of the island.
As one of Georgia's Golden Isles, Cumberland Island is truly a historical and ecological masterpiece encompassing 36,415 acres. The island contains a 5000-year history of human habitation that is inscribed into the natural landscape of the island. This history can be seen by visiting the early Indian burial grounds to the vast plantations that were once home to abundant corn, cotton, and rice fields, as well as the workers who tended the land. And we cannot forget about the rich ecological environment found on Cumberland Island. It is one that many sea turtles, marsh microorganisms, and abundant shore birds call home amongst the numerous dune fields, salt marshes, and maritime forest areas. These historic and natural resources are important elements of Cumberland Island's past, present, and future.
As many of you know, I am an avid outdoorsman and conservationist. I am a supporter of sound wildlife management and the preservation of our Nation's unique and complex history. Another key point that I wish to make is that this history has been preserved for all of us to see and experience. Under the enactment of Public Law 97-250, 96 Stat. 709, in 1982, Congress designated approximately 8,840 acres of Cumberland Island as wilderness under the national wilderness preservation system and authorized an additional 11,718 acres to be designated as potential wilderness. Currently, the main road on the island passes through the designated wilderness area. Due to the location of the designated wilderness area, access to historic settlements such as: Plum Orchard Mansion and Dungeness, both former homes of Andrew Carnegie descendants; the First African Baptist Church established in 1893 and rebuilt in the 1930s; as well as the High Point/Half Moon Bluff historic district, is severely restricted. Such restrictions make it extremely difficult for visitors to experience this unique collection of Georgia's history and diverse ecology. I believe that history and nature can best be appreciated when one is given the opportunity to experience it first hand. It is vitally important for the unique history and ecology of Cumberland Island to be properly managed and protected so that many generations to come will be able to experience this beautiful treasure found in the State of Georgia.
The nature and history of Cumberland Island needs to be preserved and managed in such a manner that will allow many generations to experience this golden treasure of Georgia. The Cumberland Island National Seashore Wilderness Boundary of 2003 will do just that. This bill will allow for greater access to key areas of the island by removing the Main Road, the Spur Road to Plum Orchard, as well as the North Cut Road from the previously designated wilderness area. Further, the bill allows for the addition of 210 acres to the wilderness area upon acquisition by the National Park Service. I should clarify and stress that this bill does not suggest that we open this land to the public for further habitation and degradation of the area's natural history and ecological habitats. The purpose of this bill is very simpleI want to improve the management and preservation of Cumberland Island's history and diverse ecosystem so that others in the future will be able to experience and learn about the treasures of the Golden Isles and all that they represent.
It is crucial that Cumberland Island's history and unique ecosystem is properly managed and protected. We want to ensure that these treasures are available to all of our Nation's citizens to experience and enjoy. This bill allows Congress to address this issue and to make the necessary changes so that Cumberland Island can remain as one of Georgia's treasured Golden Isles for many years to come.