When President Calvin Coolidge created Craters of the Moon National Monument in 1924, he reportedly said “now Idaho has its own national park.” Presidents can create monuments, but creating parks requires congressional action. This did not happen, leaving Idaho as the only Western state without a national park (less than 1 percent of Yellowstone is in Idaho). Currently, Idaho is a place that people drive through to get to a park instead of a destination.
A grass-roots coalition was started early this year to change the name of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to Craters of the Moon National Park and Preserve. This coalition currently consists of hardworking individuals from Butte, Bonneville and Blaine counties who are using the resources that we have to try to improve our region and our state.
According to John Kelley’s guest opinion in the Nov. 21 Idaho Statesman, Butte County is only focused on the financial gains from receiving park status. Economic elements are a part of every national park. However, we do not think that Kelley fully understands what park status is.
The National Park Service views a park and a monument as one and the same. Parks and monuments even share the same management books. For the Park Service, changing the name does not bring in any kind of special treatment.
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What it does do is raise the status, and help people more easily understand what they are going to visit. Essentially, it puts the name of the park into a better advertising and awareness bracket. For example, when a person opens a road atlas, all of the 59 national parks are listed at the top. Monuments are not listed.
Park status for Craters will not suddenly bring on more limitations or spark more preservation of the area. This is not a preservation effort because Craters has already been set aside as a monument and already provides protection at the same level as a park. The “preservation part” is done and has been since 1924.
We are aiming for park status for three main reasons:
▪ Idaho has no national park of its own.
▪ Craters is a geological phenomenon deserving of park status.
▪ To put a spotlight on our region and our state in order to facilitate economic growth.
Our proposal would change the name of only the 54,000-acre Craters of the Moon monument, and this would not include land use changes because the restrictions are already in place.
Craters of the Moon is a wonderful geological anomaly. It has as many animal species as Yellowstone even though the environment is quite harsh, with temperatures reaching upwards of 130 degrees in the summer and dipping as low as minus-40 in the winter.
Many people do not know that NASA still trains at Craters. In fact they stayed in Arco while training there this summer. Also, thousands of Idaho schoolchildren and college students from across the state come to learn at Craters each year. There are standards that the Park Service has in order for a monument to make park status, and Craters meets those standards.
This is a simple name change that makes sense for plenty of good, smart reasons. It is time for people to put their individual agendas aside and make smart decisions for our area, our state and the nation.
We disagree with you, John Kelley. Craters National Park is worth it.
Rose Bernal is a Butte County commissioner and a small-business owner. She is co-chairwoman of the Craters Change the Name Coalition. Dr. Helen Merrill moved to Idaho from Australia. She is a chiropractor, president of the Lost River Chamber of Commerce, and co-chairwoman of the coalition.