In an about-face, National Park Service officials have admitted they erred in pushing an expansion of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument visitor center and are reversing course.
"Sometimes you just have to admit that you didn't do your homework as well as you might have thought," says Intermountain Regional Director Mike Snyder.
The National Park Service had planned to erect an enclosed theater seating 200 people at the base of Last Stand Hill, site of the climax of the 1876 battle in which General George Armstrong Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry were wiped out.
While concerns over the project had prompted National Park Service Director Mary Bomar to give the project further review, PEER last month went to court to stop the project. The lawsuit claimed the project would occupy the middle of the battlefield and block views of how the battle evolved as well as where it ended.
Intermountain Regional Director Mike Snyder today announced the plan was being scraped.
"The proposal to expand the visitor center was one way to solve the problem of crowding during interpretive talks and the lack of a great room or theater to view the park’s film. But, after regional office staff reviewed the issues, we’ve concluded there are other ways that we can achieve those goals without encroaching further onto the battlefield,” he said in a release from his Denver office.
Robert Utley, a former National Park Service chief historian and the lead plaintiff in the PEER lawsuit, was happy to see the regional director spike the plan.
"Hopefully, he and his staff will now proceed with enlightened planning to remove intrusions from the historic landscape and implement the current General Management Plan and open an off-site facility," said Mr. Utley.
The NPS announced that it would formally withdraw the approval for construction of the visitor center expansion. The PEER suit challenged that approval as violating both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act as well as the agency's own Management Policies.
According to the release from the Park Service's Denver office, specialists in interpretation and safety soon will begin to work with battlefield staff in developing other approaches to providing the film and interpretive talks to park visitors.