Outdoors Blog

East Idaho plans another push for Craters of the Moon as national park

The Post Register in Idaho Falls has a story on plans to make another push for Craters of the Moon as a national park.

Craters of the Moon is a national monument and preserve. Idaho doesn’t have a national park other than a sliver of Yellowstone that crosses the border.

Last month, 57 percent of voters in Butte County supported the idea of Craters of the Moon National Park.

However, when National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis was in Boise earlier this year he didn’t sound optimistic about the idea. Jarvis, who worked at Craters of the Moon, didn’t address the topic directly but spoke about the idea of an Idaho national park in general.

“Certainly there was a big movement at one point for the Sawtooths but I think that’s come and gone,” he said of what became the Sawtooth National Recreation Area under the Forest Service. “That certainly would qualify. But establishing a national park is up to Congress, and I’ll leave it at that.”

The National Park Service prefers sites that are “large and complex with multiple resources” for national parks designations, Jarvis said.

“The president has powers under the antiquities act to create monuments,” Jarvis said. “All other designations of units of the national parks system are created by Congress. They get to choose what name they want to use. We make a recommendation to them based generally on a fairly robust study.”

Below is an excerpt from the Post Register story and a link to the full story, which requires a subscription:

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By Luke Ramseth

Post Register

In an advisory ballot measure last month, 57 percent of Butte County voters said they supported giving national park status to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.

Now, a local group that has pushed for the Craters name change for two years hopes the evidence of local support will help finally secure the Idaho Legislature’s blessing of its proposal.

“This county wants this to happen,” said Helen Merrill, one of the organizers of the national park push.

Advocates say changing Craters from monument to national park would bring a higher tourism profile to the region, drawing more visitors through the struggling rural towns of Arco, Carey and Mackay. Yet there is powerful opposition to the idea, in the form of the Idaho Farm Bureau. The organization is worried about added federal restrictions under the national park name, including limitations on hauling hay via U.S. Highway 20/26 that passes through the monument.

Merrill, an Arco chiropractor, and another name-change organizer, County Commissioner Rose Bernal, said Wednesday they are hopeful the Legislature passes a resolution supporting the name change in the coming session. Idaho’s congressional delegation has said it wants state support before taking up the proposal.

Data shows “national park” in the name makes a difference. Three national monuments that changed to national parks since 2003 boosted visitation by an average of 28 percent, according to the National Park Service. Craters has averaged about 200,000 annual visitors in recent decades, and last year reached nearly 250,000.

Craters staff members aren’t allowed to take a public position on the name change. But they previously noted that Craters is rarely on the radar of tourists headed to Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks. National monuments aren’t always listed in atlases and guide books, where national parks are featured prominently.

“People know what a national park is,” Merrill said. “They do not know what a national monument is.”

Full story here.