The House of Representatives, faced with what one member called "an unending appetite" for new historic monuments, passed legislation yesterday that would severely limit the construction of new memorials on national park land in the capital.
The bill, passed by a voice vote, would strictly limit the number of new monuments on the Mall and the Ellipse, in Lafayette Park, West Potomac Park and Lady Bird Johnson Park and on Theodore Roosevelt Island. However, the measure stopped short of the ban envisioned in the original bill.
The bill would allow a monument in one of these areas if Congress finds that the subject is "of such major historical and lasting significance to the nation as a whole that placing it at any other site would be inappropriate," according to an aide to the House Interior and Insular Affairs subcommittee on national parks.
The bill also allows more leeway for monuments on other national park land in the capital region such as George Washington Parkway, the aide said. But it still limits monuments on those lands to memorials to wars, branches of the armed services, individuals dead at least 25 years or those on subjects "of lasting historical significance."
Rep. Bruce F. Vento (D-Minn.) said yesterday that "too often" monuments are requested "in the wake of some event or on a wave of emotion, with little or no consideration of what the impact will be." He said there are currently 18 proposals for new monuments and only about 50 spaces remaining in what he called the "core area" of national park land.
The measure also sets up a formal procedure for site proposal, review and selection, Vento said.
The measure, introduced by Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.), exempts five monuments already approved by Congress but yet to be built, including one to Franklin D. Roosevelt planned near the Tidal Basin. An additional four monuments approved by either the House or Senate, but still requiring approval from the other body, also are exempted, according to a House aide.
Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands, has said that the House proposal is a good start and is set to introduce his own bill in the Senate, an aide said.