Congressman Souder Replies
Well, Representative Mark Souder dropped me a note to respond to my post wondering what the upshot was of his nearly 18-month-long probe into the health of the national park system.
The short answer? The GOP's loss of the House took the wind out of his sails.
Indeed, once he lost the chairmanship of House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources that he used to host the park hearings, Mr. Souder also lost his support staff.
But there were other factors, as well, that prevented him from issuing a report to Congress before the 109th Congress adjourned.
"Before control of Congress changed to the Democrats, we had not completed the full set of hearings due to a series of scheduling conflicts that continued to postpone hearing dates," he says. "Specifically, I wanted to add the southeast region by Atlanta, the Great Lakes by Indiana Dunes, and the Rocky Mountain area. Before releasing a report, I wanted to complete these regional hearings."
Too, Mr. Souder tells me he "did not feel that the initial draft of the final report compiled by my subcommittee staff reflected my views or those of the witnesses strongly enough, and so its release was delayed."
So where does that leave things?
Well, the congressman believes the work of his subcommittee provided some influence to the administration in its decision to propose the National Park Centennial Initiative. And, following the November elections Mr. Souder met with Representative Norm Dicks, the incoming chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, to request a hearing where the findings of his park hearings could be inserted into the official record.
"Chairman Dicks committed to hold such a hearing," says Mr. Souder. "I have also talked with Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall about the hearings we held and the National Parks Centennial Act, and I hope that his interest in the national parks initiative is as strong as that of Chairman Dicks."
Moving forward, Congressman Souder says he will continue to fight for the parks.
"Indeed, Congressman Brian Baird and I continue to serve as co-chairmen of the Congressional National Parks Caucus, and we reintroduced the National Park Centennial Act (H.R. 1731) last month," he says. "As we move forward, I believe that the work that went into the national parks-related hearings will prove to be fundamental. The testimony we heard will be invaluable to Congress as we continue to work to preserve our park system."