Legislative History – Part 1

The North Cascades National Park

Ron Scutt

As in all communities, living in Stehekin carries the responsibility of citizenship. We are a very small community with a very large public responsibility. We live in an area treasured by Americans across the United States, as well as citizens of other countries. In 1968, Public Law 90-544 was passed by the US Congress. This official act of Congress reflected the desires of the American people, the national constituency, as expressed in hearings held in the State of Washington and Washington D.C.. This public law set forth the principles by which the NPS was to administer this area for the general good of the public. The “general good of the public” included environmental, visitor service, and community life concerns.

The passage of PL 90-544 heralded the beginning of new management in the North Cascades. Previously, federal lands were administered by the U.S. Forest Service. The new law placed federal lands in the Stehekin Valley (Lake Chelan National Recreation Area), and the North Cascades National Park, within the management jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

Congress accepted the responsibility of creating a law. The NPS has been given the responsibility to administer the law. Since 1968, Stehekin residents, and the larger national constituency from beyond the geographical confines of the valley, have been asked to respond to a host of planning efforts initiated by the NPS. Each and every one of these planning efforts grapples with the question, “What was the intention of Congress when they passed our enacting legislation?” Knowing the intention of Congress when they passed PL 90-544 is the foundation upon which all planning efforts are legally based. The NPS acknowledges this. Environmental groups acknowledge this. Stehekin residents acknowledge this. Difficulties arise in trying to interpret the “intention” of Congress.

This continuing column will address the legislative history of PL 90–544. The tools for examining questions of intention are available to us today. We will: 1. examine significant statements made by Congressman, Senators, and the then Director of the National Park Service, at public hearings, 2. review Senate and House reports which accompanied the law itself, and 3. examine laws which have been passed since 1968 which are relevant to administration of the North Cascades Complex. We will also look at the entire history of creating legislation in this nationally significant area. All of this review is necessary for the thoughtful interpretation of our enacting legislation.

Eight years of research into discovering the intention of Congress when they passed PL 90-544 has left an over-riding indelible impression. The law itself was a masterpiece of legislative effort! It is a work of art!! PL 90-544 represents the will of the combined voices of all the people. PL 90-544 is an example of how Congress can work effectively for the PEOPLE. It is our hope that this column will help shed light on the importance of this law as it relates to the community of Stehekin, the visiting public, and the environment.

To view Part 2 click here