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Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

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Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Bubba Suess » Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:35 am

As everyone knows, all the western states have at least one signature national park (except Idaho, but near miss Sawtooth would have made a great one!). While the Carlsbad Caverns certainly deserve to be a national park, I have always felt like New Mexico was never very well represented by that park, as the cave parks all seem similar to me. While a park in the Gila would be cool, I think that it is too remote and retrieving it out of wilderness status would impair its particular historical value, since it was the first place set aside as wilderness. Better to keep the continuity. A park in the Sangre de Cristo's to seems oddly out of place as well, perhaps because so much of it is still wild as well, which brings me to the Jemez. I have thought that a park there would be perfect for a lot of reasons but to sum it up, I think it captures a lot of what is best about New Mexico. Now, I know much of the landscape has been marred by fire, but even that adds to its potential to observe the regrowth, just as it has in Yellowstone. Still, the area offers scenery: a complex geography, vast meadows, forests, canyons, peaks, rock formations, waterfalls, rivers, etc. It also boasts a lot of history: layers of Native American history, Spanish history, the wild west and cowboys, 20th century nuke stuff, Georgia O'Keefe stuff as well. It also has a lot of the structural aspects of a good park: a pre-existing road network accessing various parts of the park, trails galore both for hiking and backpacking, with the potential for more, attractions and scenery close to the roads but a an extensive backcountry for those who seek the wilderness. In total, it has something for everyone and the potential to offer a HUGE boast to the local economy.

How feasible is it? I think it is tough to develop a park out of whole cloth, but the ambiguous status of the Valles Caldera Preserve lends itself toward a National Park solution. Plus, we have recently seen a new national park created by combining an existing park with portions of the adjacent national forest (Great Sand Dunes). Of course, nothing will probably ever come of this but I still think it has fascinating potential.

My proposal:
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby mrchad9 » Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:47 am

What is the difference between a national park, national forest, and national preserve? I mean technically? Are they just names and then some differences tend to go along with them, or are there actual legal differences?
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Bubba Suess » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:31 am

mrchad9 wrote:What is the difference between a national park, national forest, and national preserve? I mean technically? Are they just names and then some differences tend to go along with them, or are there actual legal differences?


There are significant differences, though the lines have blurred significantly over the last few decades. National parks are intended to represent singularly notable landscapes and are devoted specifically to recreational use and landscape preservation. There is no resource use (logging, grazing, mining hunting etc.) National Monuments were originally the park farm team, developing places intended to be parks or too small to be parks. National forests can have aspects of parks, but are still allow the resource usage. National preserves were developed during the big push to establish the Alaskan parks. Native people and others still hunted there. The preserves protect the resources and land, but still allow hunting and a few other usages. The big in-between the national recreation areas, which are like national-park lite. Think Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho. Lots of recreation infrastructure and resource protection but not a park (though it was intended to be). Of course, there is also admin differences, since the NPS is in the Dept. Interior and USFS is in the Dept. Agriculture. This is a clear indication of purpose.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby mrchad9 » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:35 am

Those differences make sense. I knew about mining and logging, but hadn't known about the hunting difference in preserves.

I also think- not certain- that national monuments are pretty much the same as parks except they can be created (and presumably destroyed) by presidential order whereas parks are done by congress.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Bubba Suess » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:44 am

mrchad9 wrote:I also think- not certain- that national monuments are pretty much the same as parks except they can be created (and presumably destroyed) by presidential order whereas parks are done by congress.


Correct. The 1906 Anitquities Act is what is used to establish monuments by presidential proclamation. Many of these, such as the Grand Canyon became parts, early on the development of the system.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby dandrew » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:49 am

I like this idea. The creation of the Valles Caldera National Preserve was an experiment and it was hoped that it would be financially self sufficient by now, but that hasn't happened. There have been bills introduced by the NM congressional delegation to change the Preserve to National Park status or to at least transfer stewardship of it to the National Park Service. You can read up on some of this at http://vallescaldera.com/archives/3218
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby jdzaharia » Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:44 am

Interesting. Bandelier National Monument is definitely worthy of at least being included in a National Park, if not by itself. Fascinating place. Not being very familiar with the rest of the areas, your proposed boundaries require some explanation. What is special about the detached area to the north? Why not connect it to the main area with the wilderness that already exists there? My map shows a trail there, too.

I think the idea is neat, and also feel New Mexico is a little under-represented by the NPS, for all the state has to offer. But the selfish side of me wouldn't want to see the notoriety and traffic that comes with National Park status.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Bubba Suess » Thu Nov 15, 2012 6:54 am

jdzaharia wrote:Not being very familiar with the rest of the areas, your proposed boundaries require some explanation. What is special about the detached area to the north? Why not connect it to the main area with the wilderness that already exists there? My map shows a trail there, too.


The detached section to the north is the region around Cerro Pedernal It is an iconic New Mexico peak, perhaps the most iconic peak in all of the Jemez Mountains. It is really scenic, fairly wild, and has great views of the red rock country around Abiquiu, which is where Georgia O'Keefe lived. Cerro Pedernal was one of her favorite subjects to paint. The other detached area is the Tent Rocks, a BLM National Monument that might as well be rolled into the Jemez NP umbrella. The cherry stemmed place southeast of Los Alamos is the White Rock Canyon, which is currently part of the BLM and has some really cool trails that drop down to the Rio Grande. If you include this area, you are going from the Rio Grande, all the way up to near treeline on peaks over 11,000 feet. As a good national park should, you are covering numerous scenic zones and interesting geologic phenomena.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Alex Wood » Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:17 am

As much as I like the National Park idea in general, I don't like it because it puts areas on the worldwide agenda. National Parks like Great Basin National Park, Capitol Reef, Rocky Mountain, and Sequioa/Kings Canyon are all astounding regions that should be preserved and explored but hikers, backpackers, climbers and outdoor enthusiast in general. But with national park status comes a type of visitor that you know wouldn't be there if it wasn't a National Park. They come toting their SLR's to two viewpoints, watching the 15 minute film about the park, get an ice cream and then buy a stuff animal souvenir and leave. In my opinion, this detracts for the overall experience of a region. If the area has potential to provide awesome outdoor recreation, most enthusiast will find their way there one way or another. Ease of access and trails are great aspects about national parks, but then again, going off trail is when the true adventure begins. If it comes to protecting a certain tract of land, then yes, make it a National Park to preserve it's resources.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Bubba Suess » Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:04 pm

Alex Wood wrote:As much as I like the National Park idea in general, I don't like it because it puts areas on the worldwide agenda. National Parks like Great Basin National Park, Capitol Reef, Rocky Mountain, and Sequioa/Kings Canyon are all astounding regions that should be preserved and explored but hikers, backpackers, climbers and outdoor enthusiast in general. But with national park status comes a type of visitor that you know wouldn't be there if it wasn't a National Park. They come toting their SLR's to two viewpoints, watching the 15 minute film about the park, get an ice cream and then buy a stuff animal souvenir and leave. In my opinion, this detracts for the overall experience of a region. If the area has potential to provide awesome outdoor recreation, most enthusiast will find their way there one way or another. Ease of access and trails are great aspects about national parks, but then again, going off trail is when the true adventure begins. If it comes to protecting a certain tract of land, then yes, make it a National Park to preserve it's resources.


I strongly disagree with this mindset. I think it is a bit (unintentionally) elitist and defeatist as well. Why should natural places only be for those people who are fully capable of enduring a wilderness trek. People without the skills, the elderly, the handicapped, and many others should also have the opportunity to experience natural places, just as the committed wilderness junkies do. Sure, it is not going to be the same visceral experience for them if they just stay in the developed parts of a park, but the opportunity is there for them to still be moved by the experience of place. This is consistent with American values, where all people, even the least are supposed to have access to opportunity (I know people might want to debate this point, but you see what I mean, sans politics). The land, the beauty, it should not be just for the few. That is the point of the national parks and it squares with their other mission, which is to preserve the landscape in a generally wild condition. A few places in the frontcountry are sacrificed to the many and then the backcountry, the wild is left to the hearty few who venture forth. In the end, giving people access to these place only helps in the long run. The more people are exposed to them, the more they are likely to vote for candidates that support their preservation. I do not think the Wilderness Act would have had the support it did if families in the 50's had not been able to take roadtrips to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon and experienced wild places like that. The seeds were planted and then they sprouted and so many other places that were not national parks were preserved.

My grandfather was a real outdoorsman most of his life. As he got older, into his late 80's and 90's he was not able to get around much. In spite of this, he loved going to Yosemite, which he had been camping at his whole life, and all he would do was sit in a chair and remember, and then he would ride the shuttle, looking out the window happily. National parks are for him too and I know if I am lucky enough to get to that age, I am going to be pretty happy if I can go to Bryce or Zion or wherever and take two pictures and watch the movie.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Buz Groshong » Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:49 pm

Bubba Suess wrote:
mrchad9 wrote:What is the difference between a national park, national forest, and national preserve? I mean technically? Are they just names and then some differences tend to go along with them, or are there actual legal differences?


There are significant differences, though the lines have blurred significantly over the last few decades. National parks are intended to represent singularly notable landscapes and are devoted specifically to recreational use and landscape preservation. There is no resource use (logging, grazing, mining hunting etc.) National Monuments were originally the park farm team, developing places intended to be parks or too small to be parks. National forests can have aspects of parks, but are still allow the resource usage. National preserves were developed during the big push to establish the Alaskan parks. Native people and others still hunted there. The preserves protect the resources and land, but still allow hunting and a few other usages. The big in-between the national recreation areas, which are like national-park lite. Think Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho. Lots of recreation infrastructure and resource protection but not a park (though it was intended to be). Of course, there is also admin differences, since the NPS is in the Dept. Interior and USFS is in the Dept. Agriculture. This is a clear indication of purpose.


One difference between a National Monument and a National Park is that a President can create a National Monument without Congressional approval, whereas Congress needs to pass a law to create a National Park.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Buz Groshong » Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:53 pm

mrchad9 wrote:Those differences make sense. I knew about mining and logging, but hadn't known about the hunting difference in preserves.

I also think- not certain- that national monuments are pretty much the same as parks except they can be created (and presumably destroyed) by presidential order whereas parks are done by congress.


Once a National Monument is designated by a President, it requires an act of Congress (signed by the President) to undo the action.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Bubba Suess » Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:47 pm

The Jemez Mountains have a striking variety of landscapes in a very compact area, perfect for a national park. Here are some views* of what would be included in Jemez National Park:

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*There are no good views of Jemez Falls, a likely JNP icon, on Summitpost.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby jdzaharia » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:24 pm

The only problem I see with the photos you posted, Bubba, is that no dogs are allowed in the backcountry of a National Park. Ha ha.

One thing that has confused me is that some National Monuments are administered by the National Park Service, and some are administered by the BLM. 'Splain that one to me.
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Re: Idea for a new national park in New Mexico

Postby Bubba Suess » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:37 pm

jdzaharia wrote:One thing that has confused me is that some National Monuments are administered by the National Park Service, and some are administered by the BLM. 'Splain that one to me.


Actually, it is worse than that. Monuments are in the NPS, BLM and the USFS and the Fish and Wildlife Management. Nothing in the Antiquities Act stipulates that the NPS has to manage monuments. When the Antiquities Act was passed, lands administration was still a bit more ordered than it is now. The NPS handled all parklike units. It was not until the 80's that the USFS had a few initial monuments, like Mount Saint Helens. In the 90's Clinton added several BLM monuments, like Grand Staircase - Escalante. Now the waters are muddied. I think some realignment is in order.
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