Why Stop At Golden Gate National Recreation Area? What Other NRAs, Monuments, Etc., Should Be Renamed?

Is Canyon de Chelly National Monument, with its sweeping red-rock landscapes and rich human history, any less deserving of "national park" status than Golden Gate National Recreation Area? Photo by David A. Porter via flickr.

What's in a name? That's a good question in light of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's unsolicited (from the National Park Service) bid to turn Golden Gate National Recreation Area into a "national park."

In pushing for renaming the NRA "Golden Gate National Park(s)," Speaker Pelosi would have us believe anything less than attaching a "national park(s)" suffix to Golden Gate would be a slight.

"In the years since the establishment of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area almost 40 years ago, the park units have collectively been referred to as Golden Gate National Parks. As natural and historic sites have been added to this park system, the need has grown to recognize the system of parks for what they are, which is one of our nation’s great natural treasures," her office says in explaining the proposal.

"This bill recognizes the importance of Golden Gate National Parks to the history and future of our nation and rewards it with a designation befitting its place among the most spectacular national parks in our nation."

Let's forgo, for the moment, debating whether a missile site, maximum security prison, lighthouse, or military outpost are truly "natural treasures." Instead, why not wonder why Speaker Pelosi should stop with Golden Gate in her renaming bid? Surely there must be some other units within the National Park System that are among "our nation's greatest natural treasures."

What about Dinosaur National Monument? Over the years there have been several calls for it to be renamed a national park (in fact, that talk just recently resurfaced.) Talk about natural treasures. Where can you find a richer dinosaur boneyard, one that wrote a significant chapter in the great dinosaur fossil discoveries of this country, if not the world?

Downstate in Utah there's Cedar Breaks National Monument, a rich, 60-million-year-old geologic slice of sedimentary rock known as the Pink Cliffs that seems to have captured all the colors of the rainbow. Heck, the locals have been calling for a name change for a coupla years at least.

Cultural history? Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona offers a richness more than befitting "national park" stature.

"Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, the cultural resources of Canyon de Chelly include distinctive architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery while exhibiting remarkable preservation integrity that provides outstanding opportunities for study and contemplation," says the Park Service. "Canyon de Chelly also sustains a living community of Navajo people, who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance."

And while she's at it, perhaps Speaker Pelosi should rid the National Park System of national seashores. "Cape Cod National Park" is much more befitting that spit of sand that curls out from the Massachusetts mainland and which has heretofore been known as Cape Cod National Seashore. You've got natural beauty, whaling history, recreation opportunities. Similar arguments easily could be made for Point Reyes National Seashore, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Gulf Islands National Seashore.

But perhaps Speaker Pelosi is darting off in the wrong direction. Perhaps she should urge Congress to decommission Golden Gate National Recreation Area and auction off the various units to Californians to love, cherish, and market as they see fit. After all, it was Ms. Pelosi who gave birth to the Presido Trust with the explicit instruction to manage the Presidio as a business, and it has, renting out its historic structures to make ends meet.

Just look through the trust's directory of tenants and you'll wonder if you're not examining a business portfolio rather than a national park, let alone NRA: You've got LucasFilm Ltd., of Star Wars fame, building contractors, marriage counselors, investment counselors, even restaurants that can offer an "extensive cocktail menu."

Is this a "national treasure" or a business commons? Is it a "national park" or an industrial complex? Is it cast in the legacy of the National Park System or a bastardization of the Park Service's mission and better defined as a Wharton school of business case study? If the red-ink-washed National Park Service should be managed like a business, aka the Presidio Trust, wouldn't it be wise for the agency to sell off some of its properties to better manage that bottomline?

If Speaker Pelosi's bill goes forward, maybe it needs to be tweaked a tad. Instead of "Golden Gate National Park(s)," what would you think of "Golden Gate National Business"?


Speaker Pelosi should be ashamed for promoting this idea. [edited]

Changing a name means absolutely nothing if you do not fund the change!! I agree that changes should be made in some areas (not all areas!) but let's be honest, with the economy zooming downwards, the war sucking up every resource we have... there isn't going to be any positive change in funding for our parks even though they deserve it. Leave it alone until we are able and ready to fully fund a proper change tha is done for the right reasons.

Does the Department of the Interior, or Congress, or any government agency, have any sort of guidelines to differentiate what should be "labeled" a National Park vs. National Monument?

The President can declare an area as a National Monument without approval from Congress.

Here, here. There should be only two kinds of units: National Parks, National Historical Parks. No right-minded organization would allow its brand to be as diluted as the NPS has with 19 different kinds of units. These "holier than thou" esoteric discussions of what is, and is not. a "national park" are ridiculous. THE PUBLIC DOES NOT CARE! With the current designation confusion the public cannot find the units of the National Park System and that is not good for the system as a whole. We all know the names are arbitrary - hence Congresswoman Pelosi's effort and Congaree and Cuyahoga Valley national parks. Time to think like Coca-Cola: one brand name for all the units.

The "national park" designation for a piece of the public estate should (and often does) carry with it the distinction of truly being one of the nation's natural or historic crown jewels -- an often broad range of protected natural resources and unspeakable beauty, or a place, such as Mesa Verde, that protects an area that speaks deeply about a region's and culture's history. A "national park" should be a truly glorious example of America's natural heritage and a place that protects unique and uniquely spectacular natural features and is immediately recognizable as being an identifying mark of America's natural landscape.

Perhaps its time for Congress to more narrowly define what should and should not be a national park. Certainly, Golden Gate NRA should NOT be a national park, and neither should Cedar Breaks. Congress should drop the "national park" moniker on a few parks and declare them national monuments (yes Congress has the power to do that, too, as they did with Congaree in 1976). Hot Springs National Park, hardly worthy of national parkhood, would be a great national historic site. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park would only be worthy of park status if it included the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area on its western border. Wind Cave should lose park status, too, and become a monument like its equally significant neighbor, Jewel Cave. Park designations for Cuyahoga Valley and Dry Tortugas should also be reconsidered. And, Congaree National Park, the only "national park" in my home state of South Carolina, would probably be best managed as a national monument, the way it began.

A few other units of federal land (not necessarily NPS-managed) truly do deserve national park status: Dinosaur National Monument (especially if the wildlands on its northeastern borders were included; the northern reaches of Utah's Glen Canyon NRA that are managed by and border Canyonlands National Park; Colorado National Monument and the adjacent McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, which together I think should be called "Uncompahgre National Park" ; Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah; Grand Canyon-Parachant National Monument, which should be included in Grand Canyon National Park; the Guadalupe Ranger District of New Mexico's Lincoln National Forest, which connects Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains national parks, should be included in one of those two parks; all the wilderness areas surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park, all of which should be included in that park; and finally, New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument, which should be expanded to include Valles Caldera National Preserve and Kasha Katuwe-Tent Rocks National Monument and be called "Bandelier National Park."

Going to a national park should capture the imagination and adventurous spirit of all who go there, and inspire visitors to revere and respect the wild, beautiful and unique landscape within a national park's borders.

Some good points, SaltSage236.

Of course, if you're going to tinker with the designations, would you go so far as to tinker with the management guidelines? After all, all 391 units are supposed to be managed, unless otherwise legislatively directed, according to the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 and the Redwoods Amendment of 1978. There are cases -- Golden Gate is a good one currently on the radar screen -- where "upgrading" to a "national park" could possibly restrict some activities that currently are permitted there. Do you continue to allow those activities and water-down the preservation/conservation mandate , or risk raising the ire of a segment of visitors?

Or, would you take advantage of reordering the designations to develop more consistent (nationwide) guidelines for management of the various categories of "national parks"? Why let one national seashore allow personal watercraft while another cannot? Ditto with biking, snowmobiling, etc., etc.

And, then, of course, there are those parks that some believe deserve national park status while others more than likely will disagree. How should those conflicts be resolved?

With the transition to a new administration, I think it could be argued that this is the perfect time to be discussing and addressing these issues.

Absolutely. This is the ideal time to have this conversation. The watering-down issue is interesting because this often occurs in wilderness designation. For example, conservationists may only be successful in gaining Congressional support for a wilderness designation if the grazing rights holder can drive his motorized ATV into the wilderness to access his allotment, certainly violating the spirit, if not necessarily the letter, of the Wilderness Act. In general, it seems NPS unit designations and the guidelines governing them should be consistent. A good example of that, if I remember correctly, occurred at Mojave National Preserve, which many wanted to be a national park, but because Congress would only protect the area if hunting was allowed, it was designated a national preserve, not a national park. That is as it should be.

I agree that reordering the designations to develop more consistent guidelines is necessary. People should have a general idea of what to expect when they go to a national park, monument, national historical park, etc., with national parks exemplifying, protecting and celebrating the rarity or uniqueness of a diverse landscape, ecosystem (or ecosystems) or historical resource. Monuments should protect a single resource as designated by the president under the Aniquties Act. The current restrictive guidelines for national parks should remain, while each designation should have specific guidelines governing what is allowed and what isn't, with, perhaps, natonal recreation areas being the least restrictive. I think parks, seashores, historical sites and historical parks etc. should be focused primarily on resource protection, while recreation areas should emphasize recreation over protection. So, if people want dogs at Golden Gate, it should remain an NRA.

National parks especially should emphasize conservation and protection over recreation with recreation included, of course. But the public should know what to expect when they go there, including what kind of resources they may encounter when they arrive. I think it's confusing when someplace as expansive and resource-diverse as Dinosaur National Monument is a monument, while a place like Black Canyon, which has a couple of hiking trails, a few overlooks and the nearly-impenitrable gorge itself, is a national park. The key to solving the park designation debate is resource diversity. Black Canyon, as cool as it is, is just not in the same league as Grand Canyon or Rocky Mountain national parks, or Dinosaur, which are all expansive, rare and diverse. Cedar breaks should remain a national monument because a very similar landscape is protected in Bryce Canyon NP (which, it could be argued, should be greatly expanded) down the road, and even with Ashdown Gorge Wilderness added, Cedar Breaks simply in my opinion wouldn't be diverse enough to earn park status.

How do you define resource diversity? I'm not expert enough to give a definitive answer to that. However, I do know this: When a park exists to protect a few hot springs or a section of a deep gorge, as with Black Canyon, it's just not enough. If it's a truly unique canyon system, maybe so. Maybe a national park just has to feel big, wild, grand and truly unique. That's a cop out, for sure, but diversity of resources certainly contributes to such grandness. Regardless, Congress should revisit this issue and the public should debate it in attempt to make the park system more consistent and all our national parks worthy of the designation.

This is quite the education.

with national parks exemplifying, protecting and celebrating the rarity or uniqueness of a diverse landscape, ecosystem (or ecosystems) or historical resource. Monuments should protect a single resource as designated by the president under the Aniquties Act. The current restrictive guidelines for national parks should remain, while each designation should have specific guidelines governing what is allowed and what isn't, with, perhaps, natonal recreation areas being the least restrictive. I think parks, seashores, historical sites and historical parks etc. should be focused primarily on resource protection, while recreation areas should emphasize recreation over protection.

I was under the ill-informed impression that this is how it was. Certainly seems like this is how it should be.

When I stop to think about two of my favorite NPS units - Congaree and Sleeping Bear - it seems like Sleeping Bear has far more of the park-like attributes than Congaree. You have two islands (one a wilderness), a self-guided scenic drive, touristy gimmicks (the Dune Climb), and a lot of diverse ecosystems. Throw in the historical aspect and Sleeping Bear is about as "Parky" as you can get. I love Congaree and want it to have the highest level of protection it can have, but you are correct it is less of a park by your definition of park.

The last few comments have made my point for me. No one knows what the designations mean. There is not hierarchy of parks and a national "park" is not an elevation of any kind. It is a name change and nothing more unless the legislation specific to the park also changes. As noted, Congress, courts, and the 1978 Redwood Act as amended specify that all units are managed the same. National Recreation Areas are not managed for any less preservation than national parks or monuments. Santa Monica Mountains NRA is among the most diverse ecosystems in the country and has more plant and bird species and more endangered species than most of the national "parks." Why do some people seem to care about these designations so much? They are not denoters of size, amenities, location, staff, budget, or anything other than the political whim of the Congress when designated. The names are tools to designate to the public what they own and what constitute the greater collection of treasures in the National Park System. It is no wonder visitors are confused when the BLM and Forest Service also manage national recreation areas and national monuments and many privately owned properties are National Historic Landmarks. If we are to ahve our National Park System survive it needs to be supported by the public. The public will not support what it cannot understand. The preservation of these natural and historical areas is more important than what you call them. Therefore, they should be called something that can be easily understood.

To clarify for ALL readers, the Pelosi bill is not merely a name change, but strikes every occurrence of the word "recreation" out of the enabling legislation of the GGNRA.

That Pelosi staffers call this a "name change," merely cosmetic to "raise the status" of the park, with no impact on the administration of the park, is simply laughable.

These folks are serious about making recreation take a backseat to preservation/restoration. Somehow, I missed the rationale that explains why Bay Area residents are in less need of recreation than they were in 1972.

Sometimes a resource is not always seen, like how some hot springs have An important pre-historic Native american quarry worth protecting. Moreover, a park does not have to be big it just has to be important and of national importance or awareness. But people associate the phrase National Park with a lot of things, which is why there are so many names. The Names are for what the park protects, not what it is.

As some on this site will know, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is on record (and pushing in every way we know how) for the establishment of a Centennial Commission to analyze many of the existing institutional processes and the overall governance of the National Park System. Such a commission could make recommendations to the Congress and the Executive Branch for changes that would increase the probabilities that management of the National Park System in the second century of the NPS would be the best possible. I'm not trying here to open up debate on the concept or responsibilities of such a commission, but would suggest that this issue of naming of areas in the System is exactly the kind of issue that it could take up.

Bill Wade
Chair, Executive Council
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

Right on Jsherman; the GGNRA was established to provide a place for all of us to recreate in the numerous ways that we do: some on foot, some by bike, some on horse, some on surfboard, some with dog, some without, some in a car, some not. There are millions of us living in these here hills, and especially now we need land and sea access close to us because most of us can't afford to go to far afield.

That brings up the question of who decided on this name change. Take a look at the Boards of the Presidio Trust and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (we should have paid closer attention to their name years ago), the members of these boards are a list of the rich and influential in the Bay Area (and Pelosi's friends). Easy for them to take out 'recreation', they can go to the ranch in Napa, or Montana, or...... I see this as a bit of class warfare.

There is at least one pratical reason for the name change that is not, and will not, be mentioned in any of the news articles. For many years Golden Gate has struggled to proactively preserve its natural resources from organized dog walker associations. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but San Francisco is a crowded city with multi-million dollar homes that have no yards, and each resident seems to own at least two dogs. Dogs are hard on the environment, and the Presidio unit alone is home to about 13 endangered or threatened plant species. Some of these plants grow nowhere else in the world. Golden Gate also sits on the Pacific Flyway, and its protected lands have become an important stop for migrating birds. During one bird count in 2006 one birder spotted over 100 species of birds in one day, again, in the Presidio.

One of the key arguments the dog walkers have made against the Park's leash law has been that the park was a "Recreation Area" and not a "National Park" and therefore not as valuable as, say, Yosemite.

This name change puts a crimp in their case, and elevates the park (symbolically) to a status I think it richly deserves-- because, the Presidio is more than just a former military base it is home to the Presidio Clarkia. Alcatraz is more than just a former federal prison, it is also the site of the little known story about the struggle for Native American civil rights. It is also Muir Woods, Marin Headlands, and Crissy Field.

While I don't disagree that hosting Lucas and Disney on park lands sullies the mission and the purpose of Golden Gate, I do believe there is enough rich natural and cultural history existing on those lands worthy of federal protection and our respect.

Rangertoo knows what he is talking about, and is absolutely right.

Dear Carne Asada Torta:

changing the name from Recreation Area to National Park will not change the law on environmental protection and dog walkers.

changing the name WILL demean the meaning of the category 'national park' and is one more way in our increasingly cynical culture our language is twisted out of recognition. Changing the name won't change the nature of the park resource.

Actually I and many others are aware of the struggle for civil rights for Native Americans at Alcatraz, of course. But if you were going to designate one, or two or ten significant historic areas as really defining the historic struggle for Native American civil rights, would this be the spot you would pick among all others to tell that story, sufficient to change the name to a national park to tell it??

It seems here that the name is being used to make the area something that it is not, to the loss of the significance of the original meaning of the name. It seems all about the ego of the managers to get their administrative area somehow enhanced: what the military used to call a "tombstone promotion." It seems this episode is further indication of Speaker Pelosi's unsteadiness as leader: she is doing this because she CAN not because she SHOULD. One more needless political misstep from Pelosi, from the way she wiped out Congresswoman Jane Harmon just because she was strong and valued strategic security over political and replaced her with an incompetent, the way she fought with Congressman Steny Hoyer ineptly, and many other seemingly little missteps. On the large canvas, it indicates why the Democrats cannot handle Bush. This Gateway [Ed: Golden Gate NRA?] name change thing, like the Jane Harmon thing, shows us Speaker Pelosi is politically tone deaf.

It is so sad, because we had all hoped she would help parks and help the country in real ways, not in these silly fights.

Oh John Reynolds and Rangertoo:

Your comment is way too dogmatic, and not supportable in many many small ways. I read John Reynold's comment after my last post, so call this a Post Script:

-- Congress, you need to understand, does not name the vast majority of names of park areas "on a whim." Most names are seriously discussed, and usually the Congress takes the park service's recommendation on what name to use. Congress & the congressional committees that authorize new parks, often shows more discipline and courage than the NPS, as unpopular as that is to say. Yes, there are exceptions, including the NPS allowed the republican appropriations staff to micromanage the parks, and never raised the arrogance of individuals to the spotlight as the leaders of the NPS should have. That committee had done weird things, such as Steamtown and the inexplicably located First Ladies park (a bill drafted by a supine NPS on the direction of the appropriations staffers), but for the most part, most names and most designations of most areas makes sense. Just go down the list, putting a check on one side or the other, and see.

-- The public is much less aware of the agency of government, local or national, than you guys are. I have seen plenty of examples where the public really only knew THE RESOURCE and why it was important, not who managed it. If the BLM or the Forest Service or a local government has an area called 'a recreation area' or a 'national monument' it actually is -- most of the time -- descriptive of the kind of management the area has. I remember one time reading that most people in New York City did not know the Statue of Liberty was a national park, but when the Statue of Liberty was in trouble, there was a huge flow of private money to protect the Statue. NOT because of the administrator, but because the public cared about the Statue. I don't think trying to get the public to focus on park administrators rather than the meaning of a specific place is a winning strategy for supporting the NPS.

-- All this is illustrated again and again. You know how difficult it has been for your National Park Foundation to raise money for "the National Parks" where as individual named PLACES such as the Washington Monument were celebrated and successfully funded, BECAUSE THE PUBLIC CARED ABOUT THAT SPECIFIC PLACE. Place matters, and the character and quality of the PLACE is the main thing about what is supported. Yes, of course, a talented administrator or political circle might be able to increase a public awareness for a place big time and help that place find its audience, but in the end it is not by calling all places managed by the National Park Service "National Park" that really makes the difference.

-- You are right that calling Santa Monica a "national recreation area' is the weirdest thing in the world -- and not a typical example. Santa Monica should have been called something like a 'national heritage area' and managed like the what they call "National Parks" in England. English parks are understood to have a combination of the government owning some of the land and private and non-profits owning other parts of the land. The they have a plan based on the sensitivities of different parcels and manage each parcel professionally, based on its need. The English also have "Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty" and various kinds of natural areas and reservations, with different names. Everybody in England knows each area is managed by a plan targeted to the needs of the specific area, and are not rattled by the names. But they know that "national parks" are designated for certain reasons, and "Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty" are designated for other reasons. So the name selected there, as here, is supposed to be descriptive of the analysis of the character of the resource. Yes, as with "World Heritage Site" of course there is politics in how designations happen, everywhere. But politics does not make it a "whim" or meaningless.

I think renaming Santa Monica makes more SENSE than renaming Golden Gate a national park, if you are concerned about meaning. Santa Monica has the character of one distinctive place. Golden Gate feels like a series of quite different places, and I think "recreation area" was in common use in the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation for adaptive areas to development, with the objective of providing public use around some past or new government facility (like a dam or military base). A lot of local communities have the same kind of "recreation area," made up of cobbled-togther resources.

Interesting article. Referring again to Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Parks elk overpopulation and adding bear troubles, it might not be so bad to sell a few leather jackets made of elkskin, bearskin rugs, elk and bear meat.

The current economic activities in many of the parks, of which Yosemite is a great example, serve the needs of elites who plan semi-religious retreats years in advance, and the needs of motorists above almost any value you can think of.

It's true that Yosemite and Zion, for example, have closed the upper reaches of the Nat'l Park valleys to private vehicles, but the lines of autos wanting to enter get longer each year and the political clamor obviates pushing the ever popular auto even further back, say to Modesto, or to the nearest town east of Zion's east entrance.

There might be some business for those towns, don't you think? I am proposing sustainable economic activity on the fringes of a nature we hope will sustain us forever, instead of laissez faire exploitation here.

It makes me wonder when the NPS might think a quota system will be necessary for crowd control in Zion. I'm thankful for the bus system there, though. When I first visited a decade ago, the place was gridlock all the way to the Narrows. Today, the bus is a breeze, with local stories from the bus driver to boot. Last summer I even managed to fight my way through the crowds and snag a frontcountry campsite mid-way through the July 4 weekend, despite the "campground full" signs posted everywhere. Zion was a circus, but not so crazy I couldn't find a place to park, which has happened to me on beautiful fall weekends at Rocky Mountain National Park. They probably couldn't keep the cars out of Zion anymore than they do now because, for those willing to pay the fee or show a park pass, it's on a through highway.

Lepanto - Well, seeing as John Reynolds and I have both been in senior management of the NPS and have been involved in the writing of bills and negotiation of designations with Congressional staff, I would have to counter that we are right in our assertion that the names are not as studiously determined as you may imagine. Your perspective that the public is less aware of the governing agency of the park is right - and that is exactly my point. We should WANT them to understand who the governing agency is and when a park is part of the National Park System. That is how we will gain support and funding for the NPS. We cannot depend upon locals doing the work for nearby parks. Americans must care about parks they have never seen and may never visit if we are to maintain the integrity of a national system. Coke stopped making Tab soda because no one associated it with Coke. They were not getting the benefit of the Coke name or the massive advertising dollars spent on Coke. Diet Coke solved the problem. The NPS should be thought of as the same. Get people to understand national park means any site in the National Park System and they will see their collective value.

How did we ever get the idea that national "park" was something special anyway? There was no hesitation in naming Hot Springs a national park and it predates almost all the big natural areas that came later. Nor was they hesitation in naming Mesa Verde a national park and it is primarily a cultural area. It seems this notion that the title "park" is somehow something special to be horded and handed out only to certain worthy areas is a rather new concept - and not one that can be easily defended without having to allow the "exceptions" such as Mesa Verde, Hot Spring, Cuyahoga Valley, and Congaree. The exceptions render the defense of the "park" title unsustainable.

Next year, Ken Burns series on national parks will be on PBS. It will cover only 53 "national parks." That will be unfortunate because it will continue to feed public misperceptions and will not encourage visitation, preservation, or protection of the other 338 units.

I believe the idea that National Park units were "something special" was tied directly to the public's perception centered around those first units, which included Yosemite and Yellowstone, which at the time of their designation were located in areas of the country that were traversed by few save the hearty; those who explored the "wild" country on vacation, and the mystique that grew out of the photographs, paintings, writings and the "lore of the old West" did indeed make these places "special". As government officials dipped their hands into the process, mostly revolving around an effort to bring pork to the local constituents, the whole process began a steady but undeniable downward spiral, diluting the meaning associated with the term "National Park" and the system as a whole, until every piddly nook and cranny qualified in someone's eyes as a "preserve" of some manner or other. Funding issues aside, now virtually every conservation group, be they historical, environmental, or whatever manner you care to mention lays claim to some portion of the country in the context of "significant", and while many of those claims are justifiable, no one has had the "stones" to confront the issue and draw the line as to what is and isn't "significant" or “special”, to the point where now virtually any tract of land qualifies in one way, shape or form. Shorelines, beaches, farmland, forest, barrier island, tundra, volcano, riverway, you name it; if someone's political purse can benefit from the designation, it'll find its way onto agenda eventually.

Dear Rangertoo

Let's not use "authority" as evidence of the value of our opinion. I think I have had as much, or probably a bit more involvement with more park designations and interactions with congressional staff than John -- don't know in comparison with you -- but I don't think that in itself makes me right and John wrong. I was not saying there is no politics in name designation, I was objecting to the absolutist simplicity of saying the names 'are not . . . . ANYTHING OTHER [emphasis added] than the political whim of the Congress when designated.' Again, I ask you, go down the list of all the parks, and see if ALL the names are so whimsical and debased, or if only a few examples are.

The Coke point IS interesting. But it was not about "The Coca Cola Company" it was about the specific product, Coke. When the company tried to introduce new coke, the brand or the corporate name could not save it.

There is always the danger when executives, or experienced senior managers of the NPS, appear to the public to be making the issue about themselves or their works, than the tangible thing-itself the public does care about, that the public will drive a wedge between their identity of the resource and their identity of the agents/leaders.

It may be possible to re-name ALL national parklands 'national parks,' but it is particularly silly to start with Golden Gate. Golden Gate is a collection, it is not one unit with a resource-based identity. And, I disagree that Mesa Verde is mis-named. It is a landscape of coherance and clear identity.

I agree with you that all sites are equally significant.

As this search for identity continues on, the USA will also need to keep in mind the nternational issues associated with naming. John will remember the outburst from Parks Canada when his group tried to include sport hunting within the 'national parks' in Alaska. Canada said it and the World had followed NPS leadership on names and established national policy, and the USA should not so "whimsically" throw away that understanding. I am not saying this by itself should prohibit us making changes to help public understanding, but we should be thoughtful and fair if we take these steps.

Lone Hiker, I have been impressed by the insight and authenticity of your many posts, but you are just wrong about Congress and elected officials. More than 3 out of 4 of all proposals to establish new parks are either thrown out or radically restructured to better match the need and character of the resource, and the viability of the preservation, management and interpretation strategy. It is true, I regret however, that the quality of the congressional committees of authorization, their leadership and their staff has deteriorated. This is across the board. Congress in recent years has pullied away from large vision and new legislation since the high-water mark under FDR. At the same time, we should be careful about how we describe areas of significance to some, but perhaps not to you or to others. I remember when James Watt started to reconsider all the parks established under the influence of M. Udall and Phil Burton. Many of them told the story of African American Heritage or women's empowerment or real cultural significance, and the people who opposed them were either people who only knew what they already knew, or who deliberately were trying to divide those park people who were seeking more resource preservation from those park people who were struggling to manage what they had.

Senator Scoop Jackson in 1976 tried to recognize the need to protect significant resources everywhere through his National Land Us Planning legislation. This was really the last gasp of comprehensive environmental legislation, and it was stopped cold by a coalition of fear and reaction that assumed that environmental legislation will destroy rights to land and person. More recently, national heritage areas seem to be an alternative way, bottoms up, of uniting the buisness and environmental sectors locally around strategies to protect large landscapes that have distinct character. I have heard the former head of planning in Philadelphia/NPS, Glenn Eugster, say his goal would be for heritage areas to replace Jackson's as the strategy to allow Americans to protect what they care about nationwide. It makes sense to recognize the broad value of many places as opposed to trying to divide preservation by trying to say one place is good and the other one not. Look at the examples of Italy and Britain that have struggled successfully to maintain the special character of many landscapes throughout their countries, to the delight of international travelers.

Finally, Lone Hiker, it seems to me while politics may be messy, it is really a good idea for Members of Congress to be pushed by their voters to try to protect important places. This is democracy, not pork. Back in the day when barons ruled all landscapes, no one's opinion mattered. The only places set aside where those where the elite deigned to create an environment that the elite thought pleasurable to them or edifying to the commoners. It seems to me it is a great idea for congress-people to compete to be conservationists. A diversion from attacking the motives of other countries, threatening war, building dams or give-aways to corporations or treating corporations as if they had the rights of individuals.

And when such politicians find a resource that can command a public constituency that really cares about what that resource is and what story it tells, then the task of Congress and the NPS and the rest of us is to try to provide for it the right management framework, and with a name that conveys meaning.

This is the kind of politics America needs.

Barbara Cubin has filed a bill that would block the renaming of Devil's Tower N.M. to Bear's Lodge.

Well, PC, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) certainly has been in the news a lot lately. As Traveler has reported, Rep. Cubin has vigorously supported the controversial (and very expensive) plan to keep Yellowstone’s Sylvan Pass open for snowmobilers. I don’t find any mention of Devils Tower National Monument on Rep. Cubin’s official website. Perhaps you could provide additional details.

I'm humbled to discover that someone aside from the gun liberals reads anything I post Lepanto. And true enough, I failed to be specific and painted everyone with the same broad brush, which is a sure recipe for disaster, or inaccuracy at the very least. But I take umbrage with one part of your explanation, that being "More than 3 out of 4 of all proposals to establish new parks are either thrown out or radically restructured to better match the need and character of the resource, and the viability of the preservation, management and interpretation strategy. While I don't dispute the numbers, per se, the thought that the restructuring is in the best interests of the character of the resource or the viability and management of the preservation is a notion that you'll have a difficult time substantiating within the confines of the operation of the our federal government and it's affiliated land management tentacles, including but not limited to the NPS, BLM, EPA and more other acronyms than I care to list. The federal strategy, if in all actuality one does exists, appears to be less structure, diligence and character-based and more slanted toward the "pressure of the moment" as applied by various groups and private persons at this moment to remain nameless. Realistically, what portion of the continent would be excluded from the idealistic notion of "preservation and character"? Some would ascertain that preservation would justly be all-inclusive of our westward expansionism, with it's humble beginnings being the Jamestown settlement, through our "colonization" of the Arctic refuge, Hawaiian Islands, Guam, the Atolls, etc. All are very unique environments that could readily qualify under the "preservation and character" clause, and an argument could also be made that from an interpretive standpoint, they need to be in the all-inclusive club as primary examples of nationalism, indomitable spirit, heritage, or whatever other hot-button words you care to attach to the cause. My point, though poorly stated, was more centered around WHO is behind the classification of the environment, and that is generally a governmental boondoggle. Little actual science of any discipline involved generally, just opinions laden with pressure from sources with no interest in a "national" view, but mainly centered in local issues less than pertinent to "preservation and interpretation" as a whole.

Just consider this for a moment. Interpretive trails, common to local recreation and park areas. Expand that to a national view. Imagine the geographies that would be required to formulate a TRUE interpretive trail that did justice to the Lewis and Clark or many other expansion-related expeditions. What about an all-encompassing historically accurate interpretation of the injustices attributable to our government resulting in the Trail of Tears and the multitude of other Native relocations? I'm fully aware that such things currently exist, in miniature. A plaque here, some signage there, a bronze marker tucked away in a field........spare me, please. If these were to be truly preservation-related issues, vast tracts of land would have to be designated as "historically significant" and preserved in a manner more akin to the way the Civil War Battlefields have been, until recently considered hallowed ground. But I don't see anyone pursuing these arguably more "significant" projects, more significant that is than wasting time renaming the current parks, monuments, mountains, shorelines, etc., with any sense of urgency.

This misplaced sense of self-worth is just one of many shining examples of why I view our current political figureheads with such a high degree of contempt. As they do me.

I came across a discussion in your web-page that quotes me commenting on legislation proposed by Sen. Jackson. Although it has been many years since those discussions the dialogue you share is still timely and most important. I have found that most public and private leaders care about special places be they large or small. When we use federal or state designations, such as those which create parks, refuges, heritage corridors, etc. we typically complicate the local discussions about how best to protect, conserve, manage, and enjoy these places. Most designations tend to be goal specific. Many landscapes in the US tend to have multiple values and functions and as a result require a multiobjective approach. Sometimes these designations are pursued to bring dollars and technical assistance into local efforts. Unfortunately when state or federal governments are brought into local matters the public's focus quickly shifts from the landscape they value to their concerns about outside government. This situation is frequently complicated when the federal or state agency staff does not have the skill and expereince to work in partnership with other levels of government and the private sector.

I've always liked heritage areas as an approach because they require strategies and plans that require a partnership with local governments and interests. They also look at a full range of environmental, social and economic values. When I was involved advancing the national heritage areas movement in the US we were under the impression that these areas would never be designated before a plan was developed and agreed to by all the partners. My experience with this approach in PA, SC, RI, MA, DE, MD, VA, WV, and NY proved that consensus-based agreement was necessary prior to any goverment action.

What I found was that the best role for the feds was to respond to local initiatives and help people help themselves to protect, manage, conserve, and enjoy these areas. In a variety of instances we worked with our local partners to develop a heritage strategy or plan without federal designation. We combined the heritage area concept with the idea of sustainable development and began to look at ways that communities and regions could describe who they were, are and will be. A variety of federal agencies including EPA, HUD, EDA, FS, FWS, SCS, and others, worked in a collaborative way with local leaders.

Another assumption we worked under in the early days of the heritage areas movement was that federal involvement in locally supported heritage areas was intended to be for a period of six-years. During this time the feds would provide technical and financial assistance with the expectation that the intial effort would help to make these areas self-sustaining.

When I learned of proposals for federal programs that appeared to provide top-down assistance and guidance I typically reacted by suggesting alternatives. Then and now I believe that the best new federal policy is best shaped by those successful ides and actions that are being supported and implemented by local leaders already. Only through the combined efforts of all levels of goverment and the private sector can we protect the special places that Americans care about.

All my best,