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Urban park will be transferred.

Washington, D.C. - Conservationists including NPCA lost a long and bitter fight when President Clinton signed a bill to transfer out of National Park Service care two islands in the District of Columbia's Anacostia River.

Introduced by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Delegate-D.C.) in April 1995, the bill (H.R. 1508) was signed into law on July 19. The proposal transfers title of Heritage island and part of Kingman Island to the District of Columbia government, which plans to allow the Island Development Corporation (IDC) to build a theme park on the islands. The for-profit theme park would charge admission (currently the park is free) and offer rides, games, and movies on the islands.

Children would undoubtedly enjoy the theme park, but NPCA and other environmental and civic organizations are concerned that the park's natural values will be forever lost to these children and to future generations. Home to more than 60 pairs of great blue herons as well as osprey, bald eagles, and other wildlife, the park is one of the last remaining places in the Washington metropolitan area not yet touched by development.

"This short-sighted legislation provides a dreadful precedent that will be difficult to distinguish from other attempts to give away our children's heritage for the benefit of a few," stated NPCA President Paul C. Pritchard in a July 17 letter urging Clinton to veto the bill. NPCA contends that the proposal directly countermands the presidents recently announced initiative to aid the Anacostia area and conservationists' continuing efforts to dean up the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

In addition, the new law nullifies a court order. In December 1993, a U.S. District Court judge decided in favor of a lawsuit contesting the transfer that was filed by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund on behalf of NPCA and other groups. The judge declared the transfer improper and ordered the Park Service to prepare an environmental impact statement in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Although die new law requires that the District of Columbia review IDC's plans in full compliance with NEPA, it negates the judges order for a full environmental review by NPS.

NPCA will continue to work with all parties to protect the islands' natural features.
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Title Annotation:two Washington, DC parks changed from federal to city's jurisdiction
Author:O'Connell, Kim A.
Publication:National Parks
Date:Sep 1, 1996
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