Traveler's Five Picks For New National Parks

Pretty enough to be within a national park. Green River Lakes, Wind River Range. Photo by G. Thomas via Wikipedia.

Creating national parks doesn't happen every day. Lately, it seems the quickest way to create one is to legislatively redesignate a national monument as a national park (See Pinnacles National Park). But it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

Here are five picks from the Traveler for new national parks. We offer up these nominees without consideration to fiscal impact because once you start to consider the costs -- mainly economic costs, but also political -- the possible can become impossible. With that understood, we view the following locations as truly spectacular places that should be preserved for future generations.

* Wind River Range, Wyoming

The Wind River Range in west-central Wyoming visibly defines spectacular. With 40 peaks that soar above 13,000 feet, including the state's highest point at 13,809 feet, glaciers, grizzlies, elk, bighorn sheep, lakes and trout streams, this craggy range runs roughly 100 miles north to south and 30 miles east to west.

Currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the range contains officially designated wilderness and is one of the country's premier hiking and backpacking areas. The range also harbors the headwaters of the Green River.

You can lose yourself in the Winds for days on end, spot North America's largest herd of bighorn sheep, find challenging climbing routes, or fancy yourself as a latter-day mountain man.

* Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

This 756,000-acre NRA long has been considered for inclusion in the National Park System. Indeed, back in 1911 a group of women in Idaho called for such a move, according to a history of the NRA's creation.

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Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth NRA. Photo by Fredlyfish4 via Wikipedia.

In 1960, then-U.S. Sen. Frank Church introduced legislation to have the area considered for park status, and six years later even introduced a bill calling for Sawtooth National Park, but local opposition derailed it.

This wide expanse of wild lures river runners, climbers, backcountry skiers, anglers, backpackers and more. Cyclists challenge themselves on attacking the highway over Galena Summit, while families carry on long traditions of camping at Redfish Lake.

* Maine North Woods, Maine

New England needs another national park, and the one proposed for the North Woods would not just be gorgeous, but would benefit wildlife species such as Canada lynx, Atlantic salmon and the eastern timber wolf threatened with extinction for lack of habitat and protect the "wild forests of New England."

The hardwood forests, lakes, and rivers would help build a strong recreation sector that would pump money into the surrounding towns. The streams and lakes here long have been plied by canoeists.

Talk of creating such a national park extends back over two decades. Proponents, along with pointing to the natural resources that could be protected, believe the cachet of a "Maine North Woods National Park" would bolster the region's economy through businesses that cater to park visitors.

* Ancient Forest National Park, California and Oregon

With climate change under way, protecting migrational routes, and providing migrational routes, for wildlife and even plants is vital to help ensure their survival.

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The boundaries of the proposed Ancient Forest National Park run from Oregon south into California.

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis back in August of 2011 called for establishing "a national system of parks and protected sites (rivers, heritage areas, trails, and landmarks) that fully represents our natural resources and the nation's cultural experience." He also cited the need for creation of "continuous corridors" to support ecosystems.

The proposed 3.8-million-acre Ancient Forest National Park spanning parts of southern Oregon and northern California would meet those goals.

Within its proposed borders there already exist officially designated wilderness and roadless areas, places perfect for both recreation and wildlife.

The proposal is to set aside a solid block of land 3.8 million acres from the Rogue River in Oregon to the Eel River in California. It will forever allow the free migration of species from the coast and Redwood National Park to semi arid inland canyons. The park would include already established wilderness areas and already designated critical wildlife areas along with about 1 million acres of unprotected inventoried roadless areas.

* San Rafael Swell, Utah

Talk of turning the Swell into a national park has simmered for decades, going back to the 1930s when local officials proposed a "Wayne Wonderland National Monument." The proposal went nowhere, for the Swell, but is pointed to as an impetus for Capitol Reef National Park.

Nevertheless, the wondrous landscape of colorful reefs of rock, deep canyons, and sandstone walls bearing ancient pictographs remain. So, too, do the tales of outlaws such as Butch and Sundance losing possees by galloping into the maze of canyons. Within the Swell you can find ancient granaries, stone arches, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, feral horses and mules, homesteader cabins, and old mining operations. There are opportunities for canyoneering, river running, backpacking and day hiking and more.

Today there are fewer and fewer pristine and preserved areas left in the country, a fact that has the clock ticking on the few remaining places that deserve national park status. While much opposition no doubt exists to each of the above proposals, they could be crafted in such a way to mollify many of the critics.

By creating a "national park and preserve," the enacting legislation could be written in a way to allow some traditional ways of life, whether they involve grazing livestock, hunting, or logging in a sustainable fashion. Communities could remain in place, with the "park-and-preserve" boundaries excluding them.

What other places do you think should be added to the park system?


You can hike with a dog in some NPS units, including some of those with the "National Park" designation. Acadia, Shenandoah, and Congaree National Parks all allow dogs on a number of trails. In Shenandoah, dogs are allowed on all but about 20 miles of over 500 miles of hiking trails. Acadia has more than 100 miles of hiking trails that allow dogs. Congaree is currently allowing leashed dogs on all trails, including the boardwalks from which dogs were previously banned, for a trial period. If the experiment is successful, Congaree will make it permanent.

You know, ec, there are times when I think you just like to argue with folks, that if I told you the sky was blue you'd say it was red. If you saw where I board my dogs, you'd be pretty impressed...

Sara - Glad to hear that. And I assume the world didn't come to an end in those parks.

Now - off for a walk with my dogs in the National Forest.

Those commenting here need to learn to spot a troll when they see one and not engage in an endless, unwinnable and off-topic arguement. Now does anyone have any other ideas for potential National Parks? :-)

I think the point is that with different agencies with different missions, we have options when it comes to enjoying our public lands in different ways. I remember hiking in Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe with a group that included an extremely capable hiking dog. It didn't detract from my experience. One can also fish, hunt, and ride horses in these areas even though they're "protected" under wilderness status.

Mount St Helens was brought up in a comment as a possible NP. Perhaps, but the Forest Service is against it, and they cite the activities allowed there such as hunting and biking as popular activities that would likely be curtailed or eliminated under NPS control.

I'm aware of all the arguments for or against. When I hear arguments that one can't typically hunt, walk a dog, or mountain bike on NPS land, my usual response is that there are places to do that. I don't see why there shouldn't be that option, and we should be judicious as a nation as to which areas to add to the NPS inventory of places. While I personally don't want to be near hunters or reckless mountain bikers (and I sometimes ride a bike on trails) I have no issue that they have places to do that.

Also - I'm wary of politicians redesigning or adding an area as NPS land because they feel that it will boost the profile and increase visitation. It didn't at Cuyahoga Valley NP and it probably won't at Pinnacles in the long run.

Does anyone know if there is a "National Forest Traveler" website we could divert some of this discussion energy to?

BTW - when I travel to parks and otherwise I get a housesitter. They eat my food, watch my satelite TV, and feed/exercise/play with/etc my pets. It isn't dispicable. It's win/win.

Housesitters are awesome for me too.

Has anyone read Death in Yellowstone? The first page of Chapter 1 explains why no one should take a dog to that particular park. I love my dog, but she stays home when we travel.

There is a decent website about NF camping, and there are some good discussions on the message board, although it is a bit slow...

Michael,you have lot's of facts and figures that you throw around.Now just tell us what tree hugging group pays your way.

Shoot why don't we just declare every spare piece of land a Natl Park.

When I was younger I could take those longer hikes into the back woods but that was back in the 80's.

It always comes down to the money and who wants what.Eno's wasn't far from the truth and that was 1917.

ypw,thank you I'm not always good at putting my thoughts on paper.But you sited great examples on why this place and that place should be or not be a Natl Park.Thanks You from quiet one

hikertom, TAKE A HIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! tommorrow and bring back some thoughts that are not so nasty.

I have made my points and everytime you have a nasty reply.once again Peace

Quiet please, nothing nasty in hikertom's comment that can be seen from this chair. Just an observation of how to flee the crowds.

The first page of Chapter 1 explains why no one should take a dog to that particular park.

You'll get ticketed? Please, don't hold us in suspense.

The dog jumped into a 202-degree hot spring...and the owner followed to save him. Dog died, as did the owner.

Chapter 1 of Death in Yellowstone depicts a gruesome death of a dog and his owner at Fountain Paint Pots. The dog got loose out of the car in the parking lot and jumped into one of the hot springs. The dog's owner jumped in the hot spring after the dog and later died too. The dog's owner was following regulations as he left his dog in the car in the parking lot, but this story still illustrates how dangerous a place like Yellowstone can be to your dog(and yourself).

Actually, according to the book the owner and his buddy had warning literature and pamphlets in their truck, but didn't hadn't read any of it.

And because one owner was foolish enough to allow his dog to jump out of the car and even more foolish to follow it into a hot spring - everyone else shouldn't bring their dog to the park?

If you bring your dog can I bring my pet LLama to haul all my wifes stuff( mainly about 10 gal of cold water)??

Of course.

Though my dogs would be far gentler (and less messy) on the trails.

I'd point out that with the infamous death of a dog jumping into a hot spring and the human who jumped in to save the dog, the human wasn't actually the dog's owner. It was the dog owner's friend, which made it doubly confusing why he jumped in after the dog.

What a way to go. On July 20, 1981, David Allen Kirwan, 24, of La Canada, Calif., and his friend Ronald Ratliff, 25, of Thousand Oaks, parked their truck at Yellowstone's Fountain Paint Pot parking lot early in the afternoon. While the two young men looked at the hot springs, Ratliff's dog, "Moosie," a large mastiff or great dane, escaped from the truck and jumped into the nearby Celestine Pool, a hot spring found to be 202 degrees Fahrenheit. The dog began yelping, so Kirwan and Ratliff rushed to the spring. A bystander, seeing that Kirwan was preparing to enter the water, shouted "Don't go in there."

"Like hell I won't," Kirwan yelled back before taking two steps into the pool, then diving headfirst into the water. He swam to the dog and tried to take it to shore but soon gave up and tried to climb out.

Ratliff, pulling Kirwan from the spring, suffered second degree burns on his own feet. Another visitor, Earl Welsh, took Kirwan's hand; the skin already was peeling from his body. He appeared to be blind, his eyes totally white. Another man ran up to remove Kirwan's shoes; the skin came off with them. "Don't do that," Welsh said, and Kirwan, exhausted, said, "It doesn't matter." With third degree burns over 100 percent of his body, it didn't. The next day he was dead.

I've heard stories that the pool eventually exploded afterwards, but I'll spare you guys the mechanism for how that happened.

I really don't like the idea of creating a park just to boost tourism. I think the brand of a National Park gets cheapened when every Cuyahoga comes into the system. Currently, it looks like there are about 50 National Monument proposals out there, and already the National Monument brand is being cheapened with the recent inclusion of new monuments ran by the blm/usfs that allow grazing, and hunting, and all other forms of extractive activies.

I don't think Colorado National Monument is really worthy of National Park Status. It's a mini-canyonlands, but without the iconic raw experience of grandeur that you experience in Canyonlands. Although, I can understand why they are upgrading most of the natural National Monuments into parks.

Same goes with Hells Canyon, and Big South Fork. Hells Canyon is ok, but it doesn't have the grandeur of Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, etc. Parts of the Owyhees could fit the bill, but it will take the landscape a century to recover from all the abuse that has hit it over the last century thanks to the cows. These areas have beauty to them, but they are better in their current slots as National Recreation Areas / New wilderness areas.

Now, the Sawtooth/White Clouds, Maine Woods, and Wind Rivers. Those are national park worthy landss.. But, I think that there are only a handful of parks remainig to be included into the system. Not every public land should be a national park. That would really ruin the overall brand. When I go to National Parks I expect overwhelming natural experiences that are realitively unique. Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Great Smokies all those parks in Utah, definitely meet those criteria.

Places like High Allegheny... no thanks. Too much private land cut all around that place. It's another Cuyahoga, a place that you get to, and wonder what the heck were the senators smoking when they designated it as a park. Parts of it are very beautiful but overall it's not National Park worthy. Granted, i'm a bit of a snob when it comes to landscapes and wildlife habitats. So,I think they have to really contain something to meet the criteria, and also should be of a realitively large size of protected habitat. High Allegheny would remind me of a national park in Europe with all that pastoral farm land surrounded by just a few protected mountain top areas.

Unfortunately so much in the midwest and east have been so cut up and segmented that to carve good national park lands out of it would be a major undertaking that would take centuries. Recently they are trying to create a National Park in Virginia with Natural Bridge, and I think once again, it's not worthy of inclusion. They built a freaking state road over the bridge, so it's already got a few strikes against it, because that scar from that road will always be there no matter what they attempt to do. It's lost. I cant see many places left in the east and midwest, except for Maine Woods. That place could meet the bill, and over time, they could let some existing roads become decomissioned, and convert back into nature or turn to just hiking trails. That area has potential. High Allegheny? Not unless they pull a Smokies and Shenandoah and buy up private lands and create a park out of it.

They need to dump Cuyahoga. The budgets for a park like that take away from other parks, and that's especially been the case during the sequestor. Personally, I think it's more important to make sure that the main parks that attract tourists from around the world get well funded so they can buying any existing private lands in their confines while also having the resources to keep the flora, fauna, and landscape protected. I read somewhere that the pseduo urban park at Golden Gate is a big drain on the NPS budget. Does this place deserve NPS status? I don't know. Maybe it should be sent to San Francisco and allow them to fund it, and those funds are instad diverted to protecting resources elsewhere. I really dont think urban parks like Cuyahoga and Golden Gate should eat into the budgets of Yosemite, etc.

Also, its great that many of the parks contain 80% of the landscape as wilderness. This is why I love National Parks, and keeps me going to them. Wilderness keeps development in the parks at bay, and while the roads maybe crowded, it doesn't take much to escape them. I have my fingres crossed that Yellowstone, Glacier, and Crater Lake finally get wilderness desingation within my lifetime. I don't want to see anymore development in those parks. I also would like to see Yellowstone expand it's boundaries. The Beartooths, and entire Gallitans should be a part of the park, and protected on the same level. To me that is more important than adding 50 more cuyahoga valleys. Protect what we have, and expand many of the current parks. Protecting more land around Acadia, the Smokies, Zion, Saguaro, the Redwoods is what i'd like to see.

As for current National Monuments in the system that deserve an upgrade, I think Organ Pipe Cactus and Dinosaur would be two that are next in line for the National Park upgrade. Mount Hood and Mt St Helens also have potential.

To a degree your right. But a lot of those national parks that were created before the 1900s were built by railroad companies. I recently spent some time in Great Sand Dunes, and that place is stunning. You don't have a single ice cream stand, and it was recently designated. You can walk far out into the dunes, or go up into the mountains, and truly not see anyone. Same can be said for other parks. Yosemite is something like 90% wilderness. You can definitely escape the crowds there if you leave the spots that most tourists go - Yosemite Valley, Wallwona, Toulame Meadows, and Glacier Point. Granted, if you go on a hike in some of these areas, you can start to escape those road hugging tourist types very quickly. the backcountry that is designated wilderness has a bounty of solitude.

SmokyMountainMan,Your 3 posts make more sense than the great majority of all the posts on this topic.Thank You for a voice of reason and common sense which I find pretty hard to find these days.

I disagree with your comments on the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. I've been in the backcountry of all three parks. And currently live near the boundary of the Great Smokies. Other than the front country road areas, there are many stretches of this place you can go into and not see another soul, or you may encounter a few people, but it's only a brief occurance. I recently did a 30 mile loop, and it was a solo trip.

The Great Smokies are only a parking lot, if you are one of those National Park tourists that I refer to as a road hugger. As for Yellowstone, spend a few days out in the Bechler, or the Gallitans and come back and tell me they are overcrowded parking lots.

Kurt,I'm well aware of these other Geysers and sites in these parks.But you do have to get on those roads to get to them.I think it's unfair when the next guy always has to come back with wise remarks but I understand that is the nature of these blogs.

My orginal point was why cheapen the great parks by adding more and more just for the sake of calling it a national park.A national monument,seashore,historic site doesn't take anything away from them by not being called a National Park unless it has to do with money and that's what this is all about.

I don't think it's your place to take sides.I love the Natl Parks just like you.The biggest problem we have today are strong special interest groups running the show and that's not just our Natl Parks.

Go to hell and back again,God help all you.I gave you a thumbs up and you throw mud in my face.

I have just taken this dum website off my computer it all fighting and senseless babble by fools like you that think you have all the anwsers. That's why our country is ready to tank.


I think you're jumping the gun. When I saw your post calling the Great Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone (two places i've lived around), a parking lot, I feel i'd chime in with my own two cents on it, hence the purpose of a blog. I can easily avoid crowds in the Smokies, because I know that if you get beyond a mile of the road, and stay away from 5 main trails, and a few others during the weekends, that it's easy to escape. Yellowstone was the same way. Just stay away from a few main areas where the road huggies hang, and it's easy to have that "lost in the primitive of Yellowstone" experience. To state that they are just urban zoos is vastly unfounded. The Smokies still contain wild remote drainages that are realtively impenetratable during summer. An adventure that is definitely not of an urban zoo.

Hi Quiet please,

I work for RESTORE: The North Woods, the group that has been working to create a 3.2-million-acre Maine Woods National Park & Preserve.

BTW, for others concerned about hunting, dogs, mountain biking, etc., the National Preserve portion would allow those uses.

I am not advocating turning everything into national parks, but the National Park System is far from complete. A good start would be adding 100 new parks by the 2016 National Park Service centennial.

I agree with you that money talks on this issue and everything else.

Best, Michael

I don't know if I like the 100 new park wish. Out of the 59 National Parks in the system, there are two that I think should be placed on a lower totem - Cuyahoga and Hot Springs. The rest are definitely worth the recognition of a National Park, although I have never stepped foot in the parks outside the lower 48, and still need to get out to Acadia, Badlands, Wind Cave and the Everglades.

Regardless, just making parks for the sake of, really does cheapen the brand of a National Park. When you start stacking the Yellowstones against the Cuyahogas, and the Cuyahogas outnumber the Yellowstones, it really does cheapen the NPS brand and logo. Granted, there are perhaps 10 or so more places that could be made into National Parks, and the list that they posted above is a good list. Although, i'm sure the national forest lands in the very pro-logging area of Southern Oregon and Northern California would be a very hard undertaking to create a National Park due to the opposition. And major battles would have to be waged just to establish the Maine Woods (as i'm sure youre well aware of), Winds, Sawtooths, and St Helens that it would take a decade or more to see maybe 2 of them come to light. So, the 100 new parks is really ambitious and would cheapen the National Park brand. I think it's very important to protect that brand and not to cheapen it by designating 50 urban parks, or more parks like Cuyahoga, just for the sake of. I'm more in favor of seeing Yellowstone expansion by incorporating existing wilderness outside of the park. There are about 20 current national parks that could expand a bit. And also don't forget that not all the current parks are 100% protected. There are many private inholdings inside the park that still need purchased. So, each time a new Cuyahoga makes its way into the system, that's less money that can be thrown at getting all the private inholdings in Zion protected.

Hi Drew,

All good choices. Being from the Midwest, I agree that the region needs more parks. Here are a few possibilities from my list.

* Shawnee (National Forest)— Illinois

* Hoosier (National Forest) — Indiana

* Loess Hills — Iowa

* Cross Timbers — Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

* Cumberland Plateau — Kentucky, Tennessee

* Land Between the Lakes (NRA) — Kentucky, Tennessee

* Mammoth Cave (expansion) — Kentucky

* Drummond Island — Michigan

* Huron Mountains — Michigan

* Huron River Valley — Michigan

* Keweenaw Peninsula — Michigan

* Lake Michigan — Michigan

* Manistique River — Michigan

* Menominee River — Michigan

* Saginaw Bay — Michigan

* Three Great Lakes (Hiawatha) — Michigan

* Big Two-Hearted River — Michigan

* Boundary Waters (Superior NF) — Minnesota

* Osage Plains — Missouri

* Ozark (Mark Twain NF)— Missouri

* Nebraska Sandhills — Nebraska

* Oglala-Pine Ridge (NG)— Nebraska

* Darby Prairie — Ohio

* Hocking Hills — Ohio

* Mohican — Ohio

* Muskingum River — Ohio

* Shawnee (State Forest) — Ohio

* Wayne (NF)— Ohio

* Western Lake Erie — Ohio

* Black Kettle (NG) — Oklahoma

* Osage Prairie — Oklahoma

* Baraboo Range — Wisconsin

* Sand Plains — Wisconsin


I understand your points and they are not unreasonable. I of course appreciate your support for Maine Woods as a national park. And I agree that we need to be true to the vision and standards of the National Park System.

But I think we need to change the way we think about the role of the National Park System. Spectacular scenery is not the only important value. By that standard, Everglades, Voyageurs, Congaree, Dry Tortugas, and several other areas should not be national parks.

Today, we need to be thinking of national parks and wilderness to save and restore America's ecological health. The Forest Service, BLM, and state land agencies certainly will not do it. Two-thirds of America's ecoregions have little or no representation in the National Park System or National Wilderness Preservation System. That means they have little or no protection. We cannot afford to write off two-thirds of our ecological heritage.

I do agree that just renaming a national monument as a national park is a good idea. Although I agree that Organ Pipe Cactus and Dinosaur should be upgraded to national parks, I think they should also be expanded. Along those same lines, Colorado National Monument would be a spectacular national park if it were expanded to 500,000 acres, including adjacent BLM and Forest Service lands.

That brings me to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Yes, it is flawed and it is too small. But we need to work with what we have in the East. Cuyahoga is the only significant tract of truly protected land in the entire Erie Drift Plan EPA Level III ecoregion.

We can't look at the National Park System as a zero sum game. Why is it bad to have more of a good thing? Adding more art museums doesn't lower the value of the National Gallery of Art or NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. We should want as many parks as possible, because they and wilderness areas offer the best possible protection.

Most of them will be restoration parks. Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah, Big Bend, and Theodore Roosevelt are all restoration parks. I am sure there were people at the time they were designated who thought they were not spectacular and unspoiled enough to be national parks. Not too many people would argue that today.

Regarding the idea of 100 new parks by the centennial, special places across the country are being destroyed far faster than we are protecting them. We need to protect them before it is too late. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, it is a perfect time to launch a nationwide campaign for more parks.

I am not worried that future generations will complain that we have created too many national parks. But they will have a right to complain if we create too few and leave them with degraded places that could have been parks.

I agree that spectacular scenery is not the only criteria. I personally prefer the word, spectacular habitat. Congaree, Everglades, and Dry Tortugas meet this criteria. Congaree is a fairly intact bottomland swamp with some of the largest old growth forests outside of California. Dry Tortugas contains one of the most spectacular preserved coral reefs in the USA, Channel Islands has remarkable kelp forest and ocean habitat. These areas are definitely worthy because they are some of the best habitats of nature of their ecoystem. But, when you start adding every 100 acre park from some urban setting just because it has a rare plant, or because Wisconsin doesn't have one of the 59 National Parks, it does cheapen the brand. The National Park Service, which I am a major proponent of does require funding. Each new park will require additional funds, and additional resources. With each additional park, it does truly cut into the pool. I've witnessed that with the recent sequestor. There should probably be about 200 of the 400 parks in the current NPS system that should be given to the states, or given to conservancy non-profits.

Cuyahoga is a prime example of what is going wrong today with all these new designations that keep popping up, or are planned. Cuyahoga should be a state park, or a urban park for Cleveland and Akron. It is not on any remote level a true National Park. Sure I can close my eyes and say "you know what this is a spectacular place", but the few places in that park like the ledges, and the 2 or 3 waterfalls are not that spectacular when compared to other places in the National Park System. Also i've been to Colorado National Monument. It's a mini-canyonlands, and reminds me a little bit of a miniature version of Cathedral Valley in Capital Reef. Most of the best parts of that canyon are already preserved in the Monument. Expanding it out would be doing so just for the sake of making a bigger, but not necessarily better park. The boundary already butts up to Grand Junction, and to the west of it is a lot of barren ranch land that is kind of atypical of that area.

You are a proponent of just designating everything as a National Park, which I don't want to see. I prefer that the National Park label means that these are the A+ ecosystems and best examples of thier habitat. Sure, by all means there probably should be a large hundred squre mile prairie park in the Northern plains. But, on the same token, Theodore Roosevelt has two small units. In between those units is land that is just as spectacular (those badlands run for a few hundred miles) and the habitat just as grand, and it's protected as a national grasslands, but right now it's being heavily exploited for Oil and Gas. I think it would be more beneficial to expand, and maybe connect those two units together, then to create 50 more small acre "national parks all over the plains". This is why I don't agree with your theory. Unless they can make a large scale park, I think just creating a bunch of pseudo-state parks is only cheapening the overall National Park brand.

Many of these places you want protected are better off in the National Forest system or in the State forest or state park systems (cuyahoga). Not everything should be a national park.

I also don't think we are losing a lot of land. In fact, there are more forests today due to trees reclaiming old farms in the USA then there were a hundred years ago. Now, you could argue that other areas of the world like the Congo and the Amazon are in touble, and i'd agree with you. But, this country has already been preserving land for well over a century and a half. We are well ahead of most countries. Most of the best areas have already been locked up in varying degrees of protection. And Canada has also done a good job protecting some of the crown jewels of their country.

I can understand what you are up against in Maine, and it's one of the few "best spots left" where a remarkable habitat is under private ownership. And the clock is ticking, and more than likely that region will become more and more fractured to the point where it will be impossible to create a large scale park out of it. I get that, and I hope you are successful in pulling it off before it is too late. But, on the same token, there are not many areas left in the country that are in private hands that do need to become National Parks.

There are a lot of lands locked up in the USA, and I don't think we are in any sort of catastrophe. I've been around the country to realize that there are a lot of open spaces out there. Every state in this country has varying degrees of protected lands. And i'm pretty content with what this country currently has. As long as we can keep it going, and make some of it better, I don't think kids 50 years or even 200 years from now will hate us for it.

Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest is only about 4 to 5 squre miles, surrounded by Farm land. Only about 2 miles of that area is of a unique rock feature. The area is not large enough to create a very good National Park out of. Very much similar to Natural Bridge in Virginia. They are trying to do the same thing there. The original intent for National Monuments was for areas like these. But, now there are a lot of proponents out there that want to create these into National Parks, just because they think if Garden of the Gods in Shawnee NF had that NP label that all the sudden millions would flock there and it would be just like going to the Tetons and Yellowstone.

See where i'm going? Those lands, while interesting, are not A+ landscapes, or habitats for flora/fauna. Maybe a good B-, or C+, but I doubt it's going to attract busloads of German and Japanese tourists with cameras in hand. Garden of the Gods worth protecting? Yes. It already is protected as a National Forest.

3.2 million or even a 1 million acre National Ppark in Maine. Awesome. That's a large park. A 30 acre park in Illinois or Wisconsin. Ummm....ugh.

Cavalierly handing out grades based on subjective "criteria" like "grandeur" also cheapens the brand. Having eye candy in the National Park System is good and we've got that fairly well covered in the system currently.

Size--now that is more objective. I've spent cherished time in the back country of Yosemite, Wrangell-St Elias, Maine Woods and more so I understand the specialness of those places. I agree, Yellowstone and others ought to be expanded. But week after week of eye candy gets to be boring. The national park experience must offer more and be more available to more people.

Fortunately there are other criteria for inclusion in the National Park System. Geology (really fascinating geology, not subjective "scenery" that too often gets passed off as "geology"), history, archaeology, biodiversiy and other objective fields of study need to be more equal parts of the evaluation.

I think "quite please" just told us all to go to hell because we don't agree with his/hers viewpoint?

When I first visited CUVA my first thought was indeed "Why is this a national park? The Hocking Hills are more scenic..." But I've come to realize that scenery is not the only metric that warrants a national park. In the ever-shrinking greenery between Cleveland and Akron, CUVA was in serious danger of being paved over. The history, natural features, and wildlife were at risk of being lost. National park status has halted the encroachment of civilization.

In spite of the patchwork of residences and businesses that permeate the margins, it's still easy to find solitude and beauty along the isolated trails, waterfalls and rock features. I've come to realize this "black sheep" of the NPS is no less important than any other. If land acquisition is in the works, this unique but battered area may one day be whole again.

It's easy to hate on CUVA because it's relatively small, lacks grandiose features, and is surrounded by cities. But at the same time it's sort of a blueprint for future national parks. Most areas with spectacular scenery are already preserved. Future parks will be those that feature unique historical and/or ecological importance that may be under serious risk of loss to development and exploitation.


I couldn't agree more.

There are on pristine wild places left to save. Either we write off most of the country and sacrifice it to extraction and development, or we start patching together the pieces and restoring entire landscapes to health. There is still a lot to work with on that front.

CUVA is a good example of that. The work is not done there, but it is a great start.

From that National Park website:

"The wild, undeveloped areas of national parks (often called "backcountry") are subject to development, road building, and off-road mechanized vehicular use. National park backcountry is protected only by administrative regulations that agency officials can change. The Wilderness Act protects designated wilderness areas by law 'for the permanent good of the whole people.' With the Wilderness Act, Congress secures 'for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.'"


"Designated wilderness is the highest level of conservation protection for federal lands. Only Congress may designate wilderness or change the status of wilderness areas. Wilderness areas are designated within existing federal public land. Congress has directed four federal land management agencies—U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service—to manage wilderness areas so as to preserve and, where possible, to restore their wilderness character."

Places that were wilderness areas before they were national parks: Joshua Tree, Saguaro, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Congaree, etc.

As for BLM, NFS, etc. not wanting wilderness areas, here is a list of proposed wilderness areas for 2013:

As I said, I love the National Parks. However, I think the priority should go towards getting as much acreage designated wilderness as possible. If you dis-include Alaska, only about 2.5% of our land is preserved as wilderness.

I guess, Michael Kellet, the difference between our points of view is that you are focused on the end result. I am focused on the first step to get there. I would rather see time and energy spent conserving and protecting as much land as possible as quickly as possible, rather than worrying about what status it eventually obtains. 1984 was a great year for land protection; I would like to see that repeated, though with our current congress, it doesn't seem likely. There is some positive news though: the Senate recently passed a slew of wilderness bills. Now we just have to hope some of them make it through Congress.


I think we are on the same side on all the important issues. You may have somewhat misunderstood what I said. I am not calling for national parks or nothing. I am glad for any increased protection. I am totally supportive of wilderness and have helped to pass wilderness legislation. I don't see it as an either-or proposition.

If I am understanding your point, I think you are saying that national parks are less protective than wilderness. It may be true that wilderness is congressionally designated, but national parks are also congressionally designated. And, despite the vague wording in the quotation that you included, the National Park Service has been protecting most parks as de facto wilderness longer than the Wilderness Act has existed. That is why more than 99 percent of our National Park System is unloaded, undeveloped wildland -- de facto wilderness.

Here is what National Park Service policies say about "The NPS Obligation to Conserve and Provide for Enjoyment of Park Resources and Values":

"The fundamental purpose of all parks also includes providing for the enjoyment of park resources and values by the people of the United States. The enjoyment that is contemplated by the statute is broad; it is the enjoyment of all the people of the United States and includes enjoyment both by people who visit parks and by those who appreciate them from afar. It also includes deriving benefit (including scientific knowledge) and inspiration from parks, as well as other forms of enjoyment and inspiration. Congress, recognizing that the enjoyment by future generations of the national parks can be ensured only if the superb quality of park resources and values is left unimpaired, has provided that when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant. This is how courts have consistently interpreted the Organic Act."

— National Park Service Management Policies 2006, p 10-11

Regarding designated wilderness, I agree that it provides strong, congressionally mandated protection. However, there are loopholes in the Wilderness Act that allow some management practices that I do not consider consistent with wilderness. As I have noted, wilderness on National Forest and BLM lands allows livestock grazing, livestock-related range developments such as fences, corrals, water lines, and stock tanks, and mechanized access to maintain and construct these "improvements." Grazing is not allowed in National Park System wilderness. This is a huge disadvantage for leaving areas under the management of the Forest Service and BLM, versus transferring them to the National Park Service.

Moreover, to quote The Wilderness Society:

"The Wilderness Act is extremely permissive when it comes to controlling wildfire and allows agencies to take any such measure 'as may be necessary in the control of fire, insects, and diseases.' The Act allows great flexibility to suppress wildfires and reduce the buildup of hazardous fuels within wilderness areas."

—The Wilderness Society Managing Wildfires in Wilderness.

The Forest Service and BLM use this loophole to allow aggressive "management" activities,for "controlling" fire, insects, and disease, such as tree cutting, herbicide and pesticide use, and mechanized access. The National Park Service has used this approach minimally, except in some cases where there has been major political pressure.

Your list of "places that were wilderness before they were national parks," is technically accurate, if we are talking about National Park Service-managed National Monuments that were later redesigned as National Parks. However, my point was that they were all already managed by the National Park Service long before they were designated as wilderness. Being redesigned as National Parks had nothing to do with the fact they had been designated wilderness as Monuments. There are no lands that were designated as wilderness before they were National Park System units.

Your reference regarding BLM wilderness areas is a link to the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts website advocating congressional wilderness legislation. This is good news from the standpoint of political support, but does not refute my point that the BLM and Forest Service do their best as agencies to oppose and minimize wilderness designations.

For example, due to a lawsuit settlement by the Bush Administration in 2003, the BLM no longer designates any new Wilderness Study Areas. This is still the case, despite lawsuits by groups like Southern Utah Wilderness Association to force them to recognize millions of acres of roadless areas. The main impetus for the Wilderness Act was the fact that the Forest Service refused to permanently protect any roadless areas. After the Act passed, the agency dragged its heels until it was forced to study roadless areas with the RARE and RARE II processes, and in forest management plans. To this day, the agency draws the most restrictive possible boundaries for roadless areas. They are now even using technical loopholes in the administrative Roadless Area Rule to log in roadless areas in the White Mountain National Forest that are qualified for wilderness designations, and are likely to do the same in other forests.

I totally agree that we need to protect as much land as possible as quickly as possible. And I am absolutely supportive of more wilderness designations. However, only a fraction of federal lands qualify under the Wilderness Act's requirements. That leaves millions of acres of National Forest and BLM, state, and private lands unprotected from destructive resource extraction and development. Also, most of the remaining potential wilderness areas are relatively small and surrounded by exploited lands. Most of the acreage shown on the Pew website is actually National Conservation Areas, not proposed wilderness. They are certainly an improvement over the status quo, but they still allow harmful activities that would not be allowed in national parks or wilderness.

I support these designations where appropriate, but I am also for as many new National Park System units as possible. New national parks can be designated to encompass both roadless areas and lands degraded by past exploitation, to create a new restoration national park. That is how Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, Big Bend, Theodore Roosevelt, and a number of other parks came to be. That is the only way we will ever protect areas east of the Rockies — and in most of the West as well — on a landscape scale.

Another advantage of national parks is that they are the most popular and well-known of all public lands. The 280 million people who visit the National Park System each year is a powerful potential force to advocate for new national parks. Unfortunately, there are few campaigns for new parks like the ones summarized in the Pew list. We need to change that.



When I first visited CUVA my first thought was indeed "Why is this a national park? The Hocking Hills are more scenic..." But I've come to realize that scenery is not the only metric that warrants a national park. In the ever-shrinking greenery between Cleveland and Akron, CUVA was in serious danger of being paved over. The history, natural features, and wildlife were at risk of being lost. National park status has halted the encroachment of civilization.
It had protection when it was Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area.

The redesignation was about money and a wish to bring in more tourist revenue. While I suppose there's more funding, people aren't flocking in big numbers, and visitation is actually down from the time of redesignation. Their peak visitation years were before "national park" status.

It had protection when it was Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area.

The redesignation was about money and a wish to bring in more tourist
revenue. While I suppose there's more funding, people aren't flocking
in big numbers, and visitation is actually down from the time of
redesignation. Their peak visitation years were before "national park"

That's because most people know that Cuyahoga isn't a real national park. It truly does take away from other parks that could use the boost in budgets to protect more of it's resources. It should have remained as a NRA.

Most tourists are not going to spend the money travelling a 1000 miles to see that place, when you can just visit one of the state parks in your backyard and get a better natural experience. There never will be any great "buzz" on Cuyahoga being a great tourist designations. This is why I continue to state that there are only a few more national parks left to be designated in this country. The Cuyahogas, the Natural Bridge in Virginia, the High Allegheny are not going to attact the masses and will never be like the Smokies, Grand Canyon, Denali, etc etc. It's much better to make sure these places are protected, funded, and get wilderness designation, than it is to spread more funds around to more national parks that should have remained under the NFS or as a state park.

You make good points, SmokyMountainMan. I might disagree about High Allegheny, though.

I spent some time in the High Allegheny this year, and it would take a major donor like a Rockerfeller to establish that park properly. The problem is that a lot of private land surrounds that area. Seneca Rocks NRA is a beautiful place, and the Dolly Sods and the mountain that extends for 20 miles that is slated for natural gas development has potential, but it would require a massive financial undertaking to properly protect that area.

Its the exact same problem that Maine Woods is going through. The mosaic of private lands, and the want to maintain hunting on those lands is going to hinder it from ever happening.

That's interesting, SmokyMountainMan. My understanding was that all of the territory under consideration for the proposed park is already public land.

That's not what I saw at all. The area under North Mountain that makes up a part of the Seneca Rocks NRA has a lot of private lands throughout. There is a giant open mine just south of Seneca Rocks, and it is large. Canaan Valley which would be the "central part" of the park has a LOT, and I mean a LOT of development. I don't know how the heck they could make a National Park out of that area with how many cabins and development are in those corridors.

Don't get me wrong, it is very beautiful in spots. But it would require a major philantrophist to start a hundred year process to even make this place work. Sure, a land will heal long term, and maybe that should be the goal, but in it's current state it would be such a patchwork of lands that I don't see it working.

You are too dismissive of High Allegheny. There are several large contiguous blocks of land. Just depends how the map is drawn. Nearly a million acres of MNF to work with (plus Canaan NWR and other possible lands), and there NEVER has been a plan to make the entire MNF a park. Would never fly in WV, a state full of hunters. If it happened, I have the feeling that it would be in the 40,000-100,000 acre range, as are many fine parks. It's true you will never get a Yellowstone out of that area, but there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If that's your standard, we'll never have another park unit. I do believe the east needs more parks.

Extractive industry is the bigger threat.

Does it really matter whether a protected area becomes a National Park, a National Monument, a National Forest? Just protect vulnerable areas in some way from developers, special interest groups that would destroy the environment (read oil interests, coal, gas, etc). Wildlife, plants, trees, water, and people need natural and sacred areas to thrive. Our planet will be better for it.