What better present for Idaho and the National Park Service during the service’s 100th birthday year than to designate a portion of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve as a national park?
A version of the idea is enjoying a new burst of enthusiasm now that Butte County citizens and officials have gotten behind it as a means to help revive Arco and the surrounding area.
Though it would be nice to boost tourism in an area that sorely needs it, this is also about a state that sorely needs its own national park.
Yes, Idaho is home to a sliver of Yellowstone National Park where it crosses the Idaho/Wyoming line. But that’s not Idaho’s own national park. Idaho is the only state within the West without one. Utah has five, Washington three and Wyoming two.
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We have argued for this before, and so have our Statesman predecessors. In 1921 a gentleman named Robert Limbert — a taxidermist, guide, trick shooter and roper known to close personal friends as “Two Gun Bob” — wrote a freelance piece about his explorations of Craters of the Moon that then-publisher Calvin Cobb printed in the Statesman.
So smitten was Cobb by Limbert’s accounts of this unique, otherworldly topography featuring lava flows, scattered islands of cinder cones, wildlife and sagebrush, he commissioned Limbert to return and explore more. Limbert did, and that expedition resulted in an article for National Geographic published in 1924. That piece caught the eye of President Calvin Coolidge. Though Coolidge made it a monument, he was known to refer to it as “Idaho’s National Park.”
One of the options is redesignating a 54,000-acre chunk of Craters from its present status to a national park. The other roughly 410,000 acres would stay a preserve managed by the National Park Service, and another 273,000 acres would still be the monument managed by the Bureau of Land Management. We’ve spoken to experts who estimate the cost of the transformation would be around $10,000. The anticipated benefit — once Craters of the Moon National Park got listed in the guide books and atlases that national park patrons consult — would be a lot of folks paying a visit and giving the nearby communities an economic boost.
The idea has local support, which needs to translate into regional support that gets the attention of the Idaho Legislature — which could pass along a recommendation to the Idaho congressional delegation. Congress must pass a bill to get it done.
Besides being the National Park Service centennial, it’s an election year, folks. If you agree with us and the communities around Craters that Idaho deserves its own national park, bring it up at an election forum.
Craters of the Moon National Park has a nice ring to it. Let’s finish the job President Coolidge started nearly a century ago.
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@ idahostatesman.com.