Post by Diane Merkel on Apr 25, 2008 10:52:08 GMT -5
Bob Reece, president of Friends of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, sent this email:
Superintendent Darrell Cook provided us a press release regarding the signing of the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) by Michael Snyder, Regional Director for Intermountain Region of the National Park Service. The signing of this FONSI gives the green light for the expansion of the visitor center that includes a new multipurpose room where Park Rangers will present programs as well as the public viewing of interpretive films.
Post by Diane Merkel on Jul 17, 2008 10:31:38 GMT -5
Thanks to Rod Thomas for sending this:
Bob Utley received the following e-mail from Mary Bomar.
I apologize for the delay in our response to your May 16, 2008, letter concerning the proposed modification to the visitor center at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. In light of concerns raised by a number of parties, the National Park Service has decided that the visitor center proposal must be reevaluated.
All work on the visitor center modification has been suspended while the project is under review. The issues that have been raised concerning the expansion of the facility and the recommendations of the park General Management Plan will be considered as part of the review.
Intermountain Regional Director Mike Snyder is preparing a detailed response to your letter. He will provide you with information on the proposed schedule for the review and re-evaluation of this issue. You should anticipate hearing from Mr. Snyder in the near future.
We appreciate your and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s interest in this issue and the management of the National Park System.
Mary A. Bomar Director National Park Service Phone: (202) 208-3818
EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA __________________________________
In response, Bob emailed Bomar pointing out that the letter to was actually from PEER, not from him, and that PEER was poised to bring litigation, and if she did not want us to, she should ask us not to and give us assurances that no further action would be taken on the project and that we would be informed of all developments. If they withdrew the FONSI and committed to NEPA and NHPA review on any renewed or modified proposal, we would have no basis for suit. Bomar responded that she thought PEER had gotten the message above too, and she would take care of it. This was yesterday, and we have not heard anything today.
However, as a result, we will not file the lawsuit tomorrow as we had planned. It would seem to be overreaching to sue them if they are they are really stopping and reconsidering. However, we would want clear assurances of this. We will give it another couple days, then call or write Bomar again on Monday reiterating that we need a response to our letter or litigation is planned. Meanwhile, we are going ahead and finalizing the complaint. If we do file, we will run it by you for comments and to make sure everything is accurate before we do.
If we can achieve victory on this without litigation, all the better. In that event, PEER would be available to resurrect the litigation should this proposal be resurrected or another unacceptable proposal adopted. We will keep you informed. All of your efforts in opposition to this proposal have brought us this far.
Paula Dinerstein Senior Counsel Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) 2000 P St., N.W., Suite 240 Washington, D.C. 20036 202-265-7337 (phone) 202-265-4192 (fax) firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.peer.org
PEER did go ahead and file a lawsuit, since despite the letter to Mr. Utley, the FONSI was not withdrawn.
From the Billings Gazette Aug 1, 2008
Although the Park Service announced earlier this month that it would reconsider the project, it did not withdraw an environment assessment conducted on the project or a finding of no significant impact, the lawsuit said.
It's certainly a problem. I sympathize with the fact that they are totally out of space and need more, but I think the best option would be the new building elsewhere. We had a tour of the archives, and the space is about the size of my bathroom. I met a guy there who said he is a collateral descendant of A.E. Smith, and has his dress uniform and wants to donate it, but LBH is not allowed to accept anything new for lack of space. So he's thinking of giving it to the Gene Autry, since they already have a Keogh collection. Too bad LBH can't take it.
Having seen the place, I can't see why Darrell Cook is worried about safety--seems okay to me, unless the building is about to collapse, or something. But "safety" is a good word to get the NPS' attention.
Anybody got ideas about big-time fundraising for a new VC in the valley?
Post by Diane Merkel on Aug 22, 2008 23:30:53 GMT -5
Many thanks to Mike Hasch of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for sending this straight from the AP wire:
Park Service drops Little Bighorn center expansion By MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press Writer
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- The National Park Service has dropped its plan to expand the visitor center at Little Bighorn Battlefield, saying the $1.1 million project would have blemished historic Last Stand Hill.
The expansion had been slated for the base of the hill where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and other members of the U.S. Army 7th Calvary were killed by Sioux Indians in 1876.
Long-term plans for the battlefield, a National Monument, call for a new $11 million visitor center at another location. But since Congress has not provided money for that larger project, park officials had sought to add a new 200-seat theater at the existing center built in the 1950s.
A large group of historians and former park employees pressured the agency to drop the expansion. They filed a lawsuit last month claiming its approval in April had violated environmental and historical regulations.
"Sometimes you just have to admit that you didn't do your homework as well as you might have thought," Park Service Regional Director Mike Snyder said in announcing the decision Tuesday to abandon the project.
Snyder said his agency would come up with another way to accommodate crowds, possibly by altering the existing visitor center without making it bigger. A Park Service spokeswoman said no timeline or potential cost estimates were available.
Former Park Service Chief Historian Robert Utley, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said Snyder made the right decision.
"This is really good news. It was more than I expected," said Utley, 78. He worked as a seasonal ranger at the monument in 1952, when the visitor center was dedicated.
"At that time, the National Park Service had a somewhat different philosophy about where to place visitors centers. It was to put them as close as possible to historic resources," Utley said. "We don't do that anymore."
National Park Service spokeswoman Karen Breslin said the service had long recognized the visitor center was an "intrusion" on the rolling, grass-covered hills that make up the monument.
"Blemish is the right way to think about it," she said. "Had the expansion gone forward that would be the issue. It would be a bigger blemish."
She said the expansion had been proposed out of "frustration" on the part of park employees who deal with large crowds of visitors to the monument every summer.