With a commitment to preservation and recreation, America’s National Parks have for over a century offered opportunities for us to be enriched and inspired by the landscape, the history, and the wildlife. At parks we can see rare creatures and spectacular scenery, as well as learn from rangers about our natural and cultural history.
Despite the common enthusiasm for “America’s best idea,” The National Park System is far from complete. In recent years the growth of the system has slowed, with fewer sites and far fewer acres being protected than in previous generations, but that’s not due to a lack of awe-inspiring, park-quality lands. Deserving natural settings abound, and important stories of our rich heritage remain untold, so the need to protect new areas as parks is clear.
Below, you can find and join ongoing efforts to establish new National Parks.
The Acadian Group of the Sierra Club is pushing for part of the Atchafalaya Basin to become a National Park. Hundreds of privately owned acres of forestry and swampland surrounding the basin have been destroyed to plant sugar cane and rice in their place. One area of the basin, 150 square miles spanning St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary parishes, has gone virtually undisturbed. The park would preservation one of the last pockets of the basin that has remained in its natural state.
Louisiana has already granted the Sierra Club permission to bring its proposal before Congress, which is in charge of designating areas as National Parks by passing legislation. Since then, the club has been in talks with Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office, but Harold Schoeffler, the chairman of the Acadian Group of the Sierra Club, said he doesn’t think much congressional action will be taken until the public pushes for the proposal, too.
Learn more: Acadian Group of the Sierra Club
Bob Gent, a longtime visitor to Chiricahua National Monument, began to rally support around the idea of making the area a National Park. He said the simple fact of being the country’s newest national park would be enough to attract new visitors.
“It is a very beautiful geologic wonder,” he said. “It deserves national park status. I think it would be good for Arizona.”
And it could be good for businesses in southern Arizona. Some consider Willcox to be the gateway to the Chiricahuas, and Roberta Serface at Flying Leap Vineyards said customers stop by for a bottle or two on their way to overnight excursions in the mountains.
Learn more: Campaign for Chiricahua National Park
Craters of the Moon (Idaho)
While a sliver of Yellowstone cuts through Idaho, the state doesn’t have a national park to call its own. It’s the only state in the West without one.
“People get excited because they see the potential for more visitors,” Craters of the Moon Superintendent Dan Buckley said Thursday. “It really would put Idaho on the map.”
Buckley said nothing about Craters of the Moon would change but the name. The size of the park, its management practices, staffing levels and federal funding levels would all remain. Costs would include switching out things such as signs and brochures.
Learn more: Craters Name Change Committee
Driftless Rivers (Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois)
The Driftless Area, also known as the Paleozoic Plateau, is a region in the Upper Midwest that escaped the crushing and scouring effects of glaciation during the last glacial period. Unlike the surrounding, glaciated regions that were plowed by mile-thick glaciers that dumped deep layers of sand, gravel and rocks on the terrain, the Driftless Area landscape has had its rivers and streams left to carve deep valleys over the past 1.6 million years. The result is a scenic landscape of steep bluffs with limestone and sandstone cliffs and valleys that form dendritic (treelike) patterns.
A Driftless Rivers National Park would serve to protect the core area of the Driftless Region while also making it accessible for outdoor recreation and nature appreciation.
Learn more: Driftless Rivers National Park Foundation
John Wesley Powell, who named Glen Canyon during his 1869 survey, described it as a “land of beauty and glory.” Edward Abbey wrote that Glen Canyon was “a portion of earth’s original paradise.” Wallace Stegner judged the Glen to be “potentially a superb National Park .”
In 1963, the diversion tunnels of Glen Canyon Dam were screwed shut causing the waters of the Colorado River to back up 186 miles through Glen Canyon forming Lake Powell. Built for political purposes, the dam was originally meant to provide a sustainable water supply to the arid Southwest, but has since undermined that very objective and has caused massive collateral damage across the Colorado River Basin. Before the dam, Glen Canyon was a wonderland of gorges, spires, cliffs, and grottoes; the biological heart of the Colorado River, with more than 79 species of plants, 189 species of birds, and 34 species of mammals; and a cultural treasure, with more than 3,000 ancient ruins.
The Glen Canyon Institute wants to address both the water supply and environmental crises at the same time. It is no longer viable to maintain two half-empty reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead. A more practical alternative would be to consolidate most of the water from both reservoirs in Lake Mead, and turn the drained Glen Canyon into a National Park.
Learn more: Glen Canyon Institute
In 2011, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin requested the NPS conduct a Reconnaissance Survey to “determine whether the historic, natural, and recreational resources in the project area are ‘likely’ or ‘unlikely’ to meet congressionally required criteria for the designation of potential units of the National Park System”. Manchin has since dropped his request for the study. The NPS Director observed that some of Manchin’s requests were incompatible with longstanding NPS policy, saying in part that “the continuation of extractive activities such as timber harvesting and oil and gas development would make the establishment of a National Park infeasible”.
Despite Manchin’s recent withdrawl, conservation group Friends of Blackwater Canyon is still intent on establishing the park. Their planned park boundaries would include the northern portions of the Monongahela National Forest including the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, the Dolly Sods Wilderness, and the Otter Creek Wilderness. Western portions of the George Washington National Forest may also be included. Interconnecting public lands would become Preserve Areas, where hunting would be allowed; and adjacent private working farms and forests would be eligible for voluntary Heritage Area conservation easements.
Learn more: Friends of Blackwater Canyon
The Maine Woods wilderness of the mid-1800s made such a deep impression on Henry David Thoreau that he envisioned it becoming a “national preserve.” The area still survives as the greatest undeveloped forest in the U.S. east of the Rockies.
Since 1994, RESTORE: The North Woods has been advocating creation of a 3.2-million-acre National Park and National Preserve. More recently, a conservation philanthropist has offered to donate up to 150,000 acres and a $40 million endowment for a new National Park and National Recreation Area in the heart of the region. Whatever combination of park system units prevails, unquestionably the area is worthy of conservation to restore the natural environment, protect a heritage of outdoor recreation, and jumpstart a failing economy.
Learn more: RESTORE: The North Woods
Learn more: Katahdin Woods & Waters
Mount Hood is a stratovolcano surrounded by forested mountains, lakes and streams extending north to the Columbia River Gorge. Since the 1950s, thousands of miles of logging roads have been cut into the mountains and canyons, tens of thousands of acres of ancient forest have been logged, and hundreds of miles of trails abandoned to make way for industrial forestry.
It already rivals major National Parks as a travel destination, ranking with places like Yellowstone and Yosemite in visitation. Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge have been proposed as a National Park before, in the 1890s, 1920s and 1930s. The Columbia Gorge was considered for National Park status as recently as the 1980s, when the lesser protection of a Forest Service scenic area was enacted.
Learn more: Mount Hood National Park Campaign
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis released a final General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement for the South Unit of Badlands National Park, recommending the establishment of the nation’s first Tribal National Park in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe
With expanded opportunities for recreation and visitation in the South Unit, the prospect of a Tribal National Park could be very impactful.
Learn more: Oglala Sioux
Under its current designation Colorado National Monument protects this area of canyons, buttes, and forests on the Colorado Plateau. The monument hosts a wide range of wildlife, including red-tailed hawks and golden eagles, ravens, jays, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes. There are magnificent views from trails and the Rim Rock Drive, which winds along the plateau.
There have been frequent attempts to make this area a National Park, but in 2014 Congressman Scott Tipton and Sen. Mark Udall carried the process closer to fruition than any other representatives since the initial effort in 1907. The two Representatives appointed an 18 member committee of locals to study the issue and learn the facts in 2011. After a ground swell of support from local residents and business owners, the Representatives then appointed a committee of five local residents to write draft legislation. The draft legislation was announced and released in early 2014. A public comment period on the draft legislation began soon after with an end date of June 29. Documentary producer Ken Burns (National Parks: America’s Best Idea) weighed in of the effort, endorsing National Park status for the Colorado National Monument.
The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has raised concerns about the draft legislation omitting essential provisions that would assure preservation and enjoyment of the park’s resources and values, while including other provisions that would undermine long-term management and protection and create more of a local park than a new unit of the National Park System. Because CNPSR feels “Rim Rock Canyons National Park” would be a “national park” in name only, they would oppose the legislation as currently drafted. They also think the cause should adopt the name “Colorado Canyons National Park,” the name envisioned for this place over 100 years ago.
Learn more: Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park