Restricting Freedom vs Better Protection
Hope the title didn't mislead you. I am a huge fan of the National Parks System--a system that began on March 1, 1872 when Congress established Yellowstone as our first national park. Republican President Ulysses S Grant mired in a country deep in post civil war reconstruction signed the bill. On August 25, 1916, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act creating the National Park Service. The whole concept of national parks is a truly American ideal that countries around the world have emulated and embraced. The park system has expanded greatly to not only incorporate our crown jewel national parks, but also national seashores, national historic sites, national monuments, and a whole slew of other designations to include properties in every state except Delaware (could Joe Biden's boyhood home change that? Nope-he was born and raised in PA, home to many park units!) and several of our territories. There are currently 394 units within the park system and we continue to expand our park system with each administration. The latest additions to our national parks (the main parks) were under George W Bush in 2003 and 2004 when South Carolina's Congaree Swamp and Colorado's Great Sand Dunes were elevated from national monuments to national parks to become our 57th and 58th national parks. I have been to 32 of these gems-hiking, camping, and bicycling in them. I would love to see more parks and many of our parks expanded. Here in Washington I would love to see Mount St Helens transferred from the Forest Service to the park service and I would love to see Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks expanded. There is currently a movement afloat to expand the North Cascades National Park; and while in theory I support it-I have some reservations about this proposal. First and foremost in our real world of political sacrifice, compromise and unlimited capital-the North Cascades proposal is of the least importance compared to other national park expansion issues within the Evergreen State.
Let me explain in order of importance (as I see it) issues pertaining to expanding national parks in Washington.
- Highest Priority-Expand Olympic National Park. Too much of this park's periphery (particularly along the coast, Lake Ozette and along Hood Canal drainages) borders along industrial forest lands and neglected national forest lands where poaching of resources (illegal plant harvesting by illegal immigrants and illegal game hunting by native born riff raff) and illegal activity (squatting and meth labs) threatens the park's visitors and resources. And a constant threat exists that many of these industrial forestlands will be subdivided and developed further compromising the park.
- Expand Mount Rainier National Park's Boundaries. Especially along the Carbon River Area and near the Clearwater Wilderness where as stated above, illegal activity and marginal industrial forest lands compromises the park's integrity and the safety of park visitors.
- Transfer Mount St Helens to the Park Service. Under a better funded park service and one with a clearer objective (preservation vs multiple and often conflicting use) than the disgraced and underfunded Forest Service, St Helens would be elevated to a higher status with better protection, funding, and better and expanded visitor facilities-like perhaps a campground and better maintained trails. Also, St Helens' borders should be adjusted to help better manage it and incorporate periphery areas that should have never been left out when the monument was established-like the old growth forests of Quartz Creek.
- Lastly, expansion of the North Cascades National Park. While it sounds noble, it is mostly unnecessary. Nearly all of the lands bordering North Cascades National park are federally protected wilderness areas and are under no threat. Perhaps the only exception would be north of Rainy Pass along the PCT in which case national park status or even better-an expansion of the Pasayten Wilderness would be better suited. Why waste political and real capital on an area that is under virtually no threat when other areas in the state are in dire need of protection?