Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today pushed for legislation to grow Massachusetts' economy and protect three National Parks in the state, which the Senator called "historic treasures."
At a National Parks Subcommittee hearing, Kerry urged his colleagues to pass the Lowell National Historical Park Land Exchange Act, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park Establishment Act, and the Essex National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act, legislation which will preserve treasured lands, boost tourism, and allow for critical economic growth and development across Massachusetts.
"These bills will help Massachusetts grow its economy and preserve the numerous historical treasures that we are so fortunate to have in the Commonwealth," Kerry said in his testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee. "These bills are a down payment on future land preservation, leveraging critical tourism dollars for our states and opening up important opportunities for economic development."
The full text of Senator Kerry's testimony, as prepared, is below:
Chairman Udall, Senator Paul, thank you for the opportunity to discuss three bills that are very important to me and to Massachusetts. I believe these bills will help Massachusetts grow its economy and preserve the numerous historical treasures that we are so fortunate to have in the Commonwealth. I hope the Committee will look favorably upon each of these bills and consider including them in a future committee markup.
First, the Lowell National Historical Park Land Exchange Act of 2011 would allow the Secretary of the Interior to exchange land in Lowell National Historical Park for land currently owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Lowell and the University of Massachusetts Building Authority. This bill is supported by the National Park Service, the City of Lowell, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The federal land includes a maintenance facility and parking lots which are no longer of use to the National Park Service. The bill will open up important opportunities for economic development in Lowell, and the federal government might even make money from the transaction. It is good government all-around.
Second, I would like to talk the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park Establishment Act, which I was so pleased to work on with my friend from Rhode Island, Senator Jack Reed. I believe he is going to speak about this as well in a few minutes. Congress first recognized the special nature of the Blackstone River Valley in 1986 when it designated it a National Heritage Corridor. Jack and I believe it's time to take the next step and turn the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor into a National Historical Park. Under our legislation, some of the Valley's most historic sites will become part of the Park, including the Old Slater Mill. The Blackstone River, its tributaries and the Blackstone Canal will also become part of the Park. This bill is a down payment on future land preservation, leveraging critical tourism dollars for our states.
I was so very proud to serve in the Senate with John Chafee. And I saw firsthand what a champion of the land this Navy man and New England Republican was throughout his long political career. I have no doubt that given his love of the environment, his love of history and his love of New England, Senator Chafee would agree that the history of the Blackstone River Valley is unique to the American experience and that protecting it as a National Historical Park is unquestionably in the public's interest. I hope we can honor his memory in this way.
Finally, I'd like to speak about the Essex National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act. The Essex National Heritage Area is a sterling example of how private/public partnerships can succeed in conservation. In 1996, Congress recognized the national significance of the historic 500 square mile region north of Boston, Massachusetts, by establishing the Essex National Heritage Area. The Area is now home to 9,968 historic structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 400 historic farms, 86 significant museums, 26 important National Historic Landmarks, nine scenic State Parks, two National Park units, and one National Wildlife Refuge.
Annie Harris, Executive Director of the Essex National Heritage Commission, here with us today, will be able to speak in more detail to the successes of the Heritage Area, and I hope she specifically highlights one of their best programs - the Youth Job Corps. The Corps accepts between 10 and 25 young people each summer to work at the Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Sites under the supervision of National Park Service employees. These kids not only get great work experience, but they develop an important sense of history, pride and loyalty to their hometown that they carry with them into their future.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for giving me the chance to talk about these three bills today. I appreciate the opportunity and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. I look forward to working with you to move these bills forward in the Senate.