Washington, DC -- The Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act made it safely through the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands today. The bill, H.R. 1411, authorizes a study of the "suitability and feasibility" of designating certain areas of prehistoric, historic, and natural significance on Rota as a unit of the National Park System. The study is a necessary step before Congress decides to designate any area as a National Park.
"The bill has already garnered bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives," Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan reminded the Subcommittee in his prepared statement. H.R. 1411 is the same language that passed the House unanimously in the 111th Congress. That previous bill, H.R. 4686, died without action by the Senate.
Sablan then submitted letters of support from Rota Mayor Melchor A. Mendiola, and from Senate President Paul A. Manglona, who wrote on behalf of the Rota Legislative Delegation that "[a]rchaeologists describe Rota as having the most intact and numerous historic sites of any island in the Mariana Archipelago."
Sablan also added the testimony of Rep. Teresita A. Santos of Rota, which she presented at a 2010hearing on H.R. 4686, to today's record.
The National Park Service, too, testified in favor of Congressman Sablan's proposal to move the concept of a Rota National Park to the next stage in the approval process.
"Spared the population displacement of other colonial islands and largely bypassed during World War II, Rota preserves striking examples of the three thousand-year-old Chamorro culture surrounded by the best remaining expanse of this island chain's native limestone forest," said Stephen E. Whitesell, Associate Director for Park Planning, Facilities, and Lands at the National Park Service.
Whitesell also noted that "Rota's residents and legislative delegation have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the protection of the island's environment." He singled out then-Senator Diego M. Songao for particular recognition. Songao, as Chairman of the Rota Legislative Delegation in 2004, formally requested planning assistance for a Rota National Park from the Park Service.
The reconnaissance survey that resulted in 2005 recommended that the cultural and natural resources of Rota are of national significance and that the appropriate next step would be a suitability and feasibility study.
Congressman Sablan's legislation would authorize that next step.