Reader Participation Day: What Would You Like to See Added to the National Park System?

Don't you think both the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area should be part of the National Park System? Top photo via USGS, bottom photo via

While we at the Traveler have in the past raised the issue of what units of the National Park System should be jettisoned, today's survey is just the opposite. Tell us what you would like to see added to the system.

For instance, the Clinton administration botched things back in 1996 when it created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and gave it to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to manage. That gorgeous, nearly 2-million-acre swath of southern Utah redrock, rightly belongs within the National Park System.

Ditto with the San Rafael Swell in central Utah, a landscape that as long ago as the 1930s was being recommended for national park stature.

What other landscapes might be worthy of national park designation? How 'bout shifting the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in central Idaho from the U.S. Forest Service to the National Park Service? Should we get behind the effort to "Restore the North Woods" of Maine and slap an NPS sticker on it?

And why isn't the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness part of the park system?

What other places do you think should be added to the National Park System?


There are no national park units dedicated to an American composer. There are sites connected to writers, such as Carl Sandburg and Eugene O'Neil, but nothing to music (New Orleans Jazz not withstanding). There are a lot of possibilities: Irving Berlin, Aaron Copland, William Rogers, and others. American music is uniquely American and it would be a fitting theme addition to national parks preserving the culture of the U.S.

I think Both Boundary Waters and Maine North Woods should be National Parks. Those are 2 valuable resources that are just not being protected.

I don't know the politics behind it all, but as a user of both National Parks and BLM-managed land, I find the no-infrastructure and free camping approach of BLM-managed land in the southwest to be far preferable to the zoo of RV parking lots in our National Parks. I have found that the National Parks over-promote front country access, to the detriment of backcountry access. The user quotas go to RVers, not people getting further in. Camps get over-used, and low-impact use is not effectively managed.

So I disagree with your contention that "the Clinton administration botched things back in 1996 when it created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and gave it to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to manage."

From what I've seen, development is what the Park Service does. In my opinion, the goal of making more space accessible to more people is not the best management approach to these special places.

I recently did my yahoo home page over and added "National Parks Traveler" to it I think its great and I love reading it. When I was a kid my Dad was in the US Army and I lived all over this country and was blessed to have seen many of our National treasurers. I took your Quiz and it looks like I need to do an awful lot of reading and visiting to get up to speed. I think it would be great if we move forward and create "Maine North Woods National Park". Thanks and I will continue to read, travel, take your tests and participate.

Mike - Maynard, MA


You make some good points. Specifically regarding the Staircase, I would hate to see it become more developed, say with a lodging footprint placed somewhere along the Cottonwood Road.

However, I see no reason why the NPS couldn't manage it as a wilderness preserve with lodgings and campgrounds in the towns surrounding the Staircase. I tend to think the NPS is better at people and recreation management than the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which has more of a multiple-use mandate and so is more likely to authorize mineral development, logging, grazing, or other uses on its lands that could adversely impact natural resources.

Indeed, in Utah the BLM has a miserable track record with managing ORVs on public lands. Already there have been numerous examples of ORV travel in parts of the Staircase that are supposedly off-limits to such travel. One area is Hackberry Canyon.

And then, of course, there's the issue of energy leases on BLM lands.

Is it time for a reordering of management priorities? Do we need to take a close look at what the BLM, NPS and Forest Service manage and for what results and reshuffle the deck as well as the management missions and nuances of each of those agencies? Sounds like fodder for another post.

I think Sequoia National Park should be expanded to include Sequoia National Monument.

My family traveled through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument a couple of years ago. I was amazed at its beauty. I would love to see a Visitor center, lodge, campground, and a little development. We were on our way from Capitol Reef to Bryce and Zion. I absolutely would recommend the drive to any one. We stayed in a hotel in Escalante. Not great. Some trails or view points may have been missed because we happened on to it. A national park entrance with a map would have been a great help. I will know more next time through.

Currently the Tillamook Air Museum is based in a World War II Blimp Hangar tht is said to be the largest wooden structure in the world. From a historical architectural view, I believe this should qualify as a national historical site. I wouldn't suggest it as a park, but the historical building should be preserved.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument should definitely be transferred to the National Park Service. The BLM is an agency oriented to livestock grazing, mining, oil and gas, and other resource exploitation, not land preservation.

The current Monument has weak protection, with hundreds of miles of roads and ORV trails. The BLM has allowed illegal ATV use for years. When the BLM recently tried to stop illegal off-road driving up the Pariah River, it degenerated into a "freedom ride" by a bunch of off-road extremists. See

Unlike national parks, the Monument allows livestock grazing, which causes significant ecological damage. The weak Monument protection also allows oil and gas drilling and mining.

This area would be far better protected under National Park Service administration.

Here are a few other potential new national parks and existing national park expansions that I would like to see happen.


- Adobe Town-Red Desert (BLM lands), Wyoming
- Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania
- Berkshire Highlands (state lands), Massachusetts
- Bioluminescent Bay-Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Puerto Rico
- Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota
- Blackwater Canyon-Monongahela National Forest, West Virgnia
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (now U.S. Forest Service), Minnesota
- Calumet River (various landownerships), Illinois
- Carrizo Plain National Monument (BLM lands), California
- Castle Nugent Farms (private conservation lands), St. Croix/Virgin Islands
- Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests, Wisconsin
- Chesapeake Bay, multiple states
- Cimarron National Grassland, Kansas
- Comanche National Grassland, Colorado
- Cross Timbers, Oklahoma, Texas
- El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico
- Finger Lakes National Forest, New York
- Gaviota Coast, California
- Gila National Forest, New Mexico
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (now BLM), Utah
- Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont
- Hells Canyon, Oregon and Idaho
- Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
- Hoosier National Forest, Indiana
- Klamath and Siskiyou National Forests, Caifornia and Oregon
- Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (now U.S. Forest Service), Kentucky, Tennessee
- Loess Hills (now mostly private), Iowa
- Maine Woods (now mostly corporate timberlands), Maine
- Menominee River, Michigan
- Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (now U.S. Forest Service), Washington
- Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
- Otero Mesa (now BLM lands), New Mexico
- Owyhee Canyonlands (BLM lands), Idaho and Oregon
- Roan Plateau (BLM lands), Colorado
- Rota Island, Confederation of Micronesia
- San Rafael Swell (now BLM), Utah
- Sawtooth National Recreation Area (now U.S. Forest Service), Idaho
- Shawnee National Forest, Illinois
- Sheyenne National Grassland, North Dakota
- Sonoran Desert (now under several federal land agencies), Arizona
- Tavaputs Plateau (now BLM), Utah
- Tejon Ranch, California
- Tequesta Coast, Florida
- Wayne National Forest, Ohio
- White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire


- Big Thicket National Preserve, Texas
- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
- Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
- Dinosaur National Monument (upgrade and expansion), Colorado and Utah
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (upgrade and expansion), Utah
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
- Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Hawaii
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area (add Gold Butte, now under BLM), Nevada
- Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
- New River Gorge National River, West Virginia
- North Cascades National Park, Washington
- Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia
- Oregon Caves National Monument, Oregon
- Pinnacles National Monument, California
- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California
- Sequoia National Park (add Giant Sequoia National Monument, now under U.S. Forest Service), California
- Timucuan National Ecological Preserve, Florida
- Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands

NPCA, along with local community leaders, conservation organizations and tourism related businesses are working to elevate Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to a national park. It may come as a surprise to some, but Mount St. Helens is not part of the park system. Rather its a forest service unit. While the Forest Service does its best to manage the volcano; budgets, visitation and visitor services have all declined in the past several years.

Mount St. Helens is on par with other iconic national parks such as Mount Rainier, Olympic and Lassen. Adding the volcano to the park system would improve it visibility, bring new management resources and better insure the long term sustainablity of the natural environment and gateway communities.

Please visit the following link to learn more about the effort to make Mount St. Helens America's next national park:

Surprise Canyon, Castle Mountains, the Bowling Alley, and Ibex Hills are just of a few of the National Park quality lands in the California Desert that deserve additional protections. Currently these areas are all managed by BLM, and these areas are managed under their "multiple use" mission. I believe the BLM does a good job managing huge swaths of land with limited available resources; however, I also believe that the most sensitive, scenic, and biologically diverse lands deserve to be protected in perpetuity to retain their essential characteristics. Adding areas like the ones mentioned above to the National Park Service, which are migration corridors, desert tortoise habitat, and riparian habitat that possess significant scenic and natural values benefits us all.

Oops. Forgot a few additions.

- Angeles National Forest, California
- Cleveland National Forest, California
- Los Padres National Forest, California

Hi Kurt -

I appreciate your open response to my concerns! I do think a discussion of management priorities would be interesting. There certainly are questions about the land management approaches of each of the federal agencies you mentioned, and I'm not very educated about them. I'm sure that discussion happens a lot within the agencies, and discussion of expanding the area managed by the NPS naturally gives rise to defining the goals of such management.

I agree with what seems to be a consensus that preservation is a goal. I'm not sure that livestock grazing, logging, and other uses have to be more detrimental to that goal than the building roads and visitor facilities approach of the NPS - though I also recognize that as practiced by the BLM and Forest Service, those activities have been very detrimental. And I share your concerns about mineral (and energy!) development.

I would love to see the north shore of Moloka'i added to Kalaupapa NHP. The sea cliffs are a stunning sight and provide rare native habitat for threatened or endangered Hawaiian plants and animals. The 24,000 acres include the pristine stream valleys of Pelekunu and Wailau and their watersheds, along with the upper watershed of the Halawa Stream. This area also contains cultural significance. There has been human occupation from as early as 1000 A.D. and many places still need to be surveyed for prehistoric Hawaiian archeology. This location has already been determined and area of national significance when it was designated as the North Shore Cliffs National Natural Landmark. The park service can provide the resources and skills to protect the north shore for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

I AGREE 100% I've been retired 20+ yrs and have camped with a travel trailer all across the US many times and have found the same conditions --- I will add that National forests satisfy my wants without all the rules and over development that national parks must have. And I do enjoy the BLM lands !!

@anon: If you are looking for no frills camping in undeveloped desert environment, there are lots of NPS units, where you can experience that. Usually you have to go to the backcountry, but for example in Joshua Tree NP, CA there are designated campgrounds with no infrastructure besides road access. I can really recommend the Jumbo Rocks area. The campground in Arches NP, UT has toilets, but that's it. Not even drinking water is provided.

In general the NPS's mandate includes development to a degree. But in all larger parts that is limited to the frontcountry. The developed areas are provided to raise attention, to be the "public park or pleasure ground" that the enabling legislation of the first few parks mentioned. But the frontcountry should be limited and absorb the recreational pressure. The "real park" is the backcountry. I have seen this idea attributed to John Muir, to George Grinnell and to Stephen T. Mather. I don't know if any of them really said it, but it is plausible. And it is the way national parks are run. From the very beginning national parks had a strong touristic component and to be honest, I doubt anyone here did his or her first steps in a national park with a backcountry trip. The accessibility is important to get people to the parks in the first place and once there they can hear about the marvels of backcountry and explore it - or not.

Yeah, MRC - Jumbo Rocks is a great site, and I really love Joshua Tree.

I don't mean to suggest that NPS-managed land doesn't include back country areas - I have enjoyed various parks across the US very much (both front-country and back-country). I am not anti-NPS, and have really enjoyed the visitor accommodations and the backcountry at places like Mount Rainier, Denali, and Yellowstone (to name but a few).

My comment arose in response to a discussion of a specific parcel of BLM-managed land, and the suggestion that it should have been NPS managed, instead. My experience is that I can access low-impact back-country camping options more easily, without requirements for reservations or exorbitant fees, with fewer people and less development, on BLM-managed land than on NPS-managed land. Since that kind of camping experience is important to me, I mean to ask what the perceived advantages of NPS management are over BLM management.

My biggest concern about BLM management is the issue that Kurt raised - mineral leases, or other energy leases. I always get sad when people propose massive solar installations in the southwest on this "unutilized land", for example.

So, I appreciate the NPS conservation ideal, but I certainly prefer the BLM management model to the NPS management model from an end user perspective. Wouldn't it be great to figure out how to get the best of both worlds? The low-hassle factor of the BLM, with the perpetual conservation ideal of the NPS?

Interesting topic. A little while back I read a book called "Cities of Gold" where the author (D. Preston) traveled through the southwest re-tracing (or attempting to) Coronado's journey beginning in SW Arizona to Pecos. In it he talks with a lot of people in the southwest, and I have to admit I gained some appreciation about why there is opposition to some of the federal agencies' management of lands there. The complaints in this case seem primarily directed at the USFS, but I think they apply to other agencies too. In general I would say I sympathized with some specific complaints about management, but also generally about how it impacts an entire lifestyle for people out there. Now of course someone's lifestyle has to be balanced against other concerns too, such as conservation/preservation of what could otherwise be lost forever. We also have a guy at the National Park Travelers' Club who's working on a new ethic of management within the BLM that sounds like it strives to be more attentive to local concerns while still achieving some preservation. If that's more realistic than for example making it a national park, then maybe that's a good thing to go that route. I don't know too much of the details, but check out "The National Landscape Conservation System" for more info.

That said, Google "rock crawling" and you'll see something that concerns me a lot. I'm from Wisconsin and needless to say I don't think we have this activity where I come from (though we do have our own challenges), but I think I can safely say that such high impact activities run counter to the goals of conservation in the minds of many and I think there are things which are so high impact that you might just want to say no, but I'll see if any rock crawlers here can make their case...

But in any case, NPS management does invariably mean more people coming to visit. While USFS may have some different rules and a different ethic, they also mean less visitation which may sometimes be a good thing.

As for Mount St. Helens, I am not quite sure about all that NPS management would entail, but I thought that it actually had too many visitors centers already, including several private ones which have their own pros and cons. But I don't necessarily think that the one that closed was needed. How many visitors centers do you need telling of the day of the eruption? I thought the main VC there was pretty nice, although some of the exhibits looked a little old (but so did Mt. Rainier, which I think now has a new VC that was about to open when I was there). So if there could be genuine opportunities to enhance or expand the public's access as far as hiking and other such activities, or if better conservation there would have great benefits, that would be great. But as far as interpretation of the disaster, I think the current visitors centers do a fine job, even if the one managed by the logging company is a bit slanted toward promoting logging, which irked me a bit.

I also think that the USFS does a nice job at the Mendenhall Glacier. Most people would assume I am sure that that one is indeed an NPS site. So in general if there will be genuine benefits to switching management away from the forest service to the park service, I'm all for it, but I don't think we should assume that it will necessarily make a big or worthwhile difference.

Also thanks to Kurt, I enjoyed your Everglades update in Audubon mag. It was good to finally hear some good news after everything I had read over the last few months seemed to suggest that progress was being scaled down significantly.

I used to live in Colorado, but now live in Maine (where I grew up), so have a good perspective on both of those areas. I would love to see more of the Colorado and Utah's Bureau of Land (Mis)management (BLM) lands added to our national park system, as well as some Forest Service lands. There are so many areas, especially around Moab and in Southern Utah, that are being very poorly managed by these agencies. These areas are very fragile, and are unique and valuable habitat, and scenically they can't be beat. Management may improve with our new administration, but it can then be poorly managed again by a subsequent one. National Park status would confer additional protections beyond what they have now.

I don't think that a Maine Woods National Park is the best way to preserve our Maine woods. Currently it is managed with varying degrees of competence and incompetence, depending on the current landowner (mostly paper companies and REITs masquerading as paper companies). But the national park system does not manage remote lands very well either, bringing in lots of roads, RV camping areas, etc... In Maine we have Baxter State Park, which is managed very well, with resource protection being the primary focus and recreaation a secondary focus. I would like to see this expand considerably to encompass the lands currently under consideration for the Maine Woods National Park.

An Ancient Forest National Park is proposed for Northern California and Southern Oregon to biologically join together wilderness areas, roadless areas, a national recreation area and wild and scenic rivers into one cohesive land management unit for the protection of ancient forest plants, animals and fish. The proposal is to set aside a solid block of land approximately 2.5 million acres from the Rogue River in Oregon to the Trinity River in California. It will forever allow the free migration of species from the coast and Redwood National Park to semi arid inland canyons. The park would include already established wilderness areas and already designated critical wildlife areas along with unprotected roadless areas. Very few of the acres included are private land and most of it is very steep and uninhabited. The area proposed as Ancient Forest National Park is vast, but for the survival of species in this era of climate change and major fires, it needs to be. There has to be room for the constant change in habitat types that comes with what is truly wild. The Kalmiopsis area was burned almost in its entirety in one summer season and much of the Trinity Alps forests burned in two summer events, and the Marble Mountain Wilderness was half burned the summer of 2008 along with the Ukonom Creek and Dillon Creek Roadless areas. There is no time to waste because climate change is happening right now and animals and plants and fish in this ancient forest are stressed. In fact, outside of the park proposal, much of what was here when white-man came to the West is now gone for good. The Ancient Forest National Park would include the most rugged and scenic remnant of what was a coast to coast wilderness not long ago. The reason this area has survived in tact is because people have fought and fought again for its preservation. A major part of the landscape proposed as Ancient Forest National Park has been set aside in a piecemeal fashion with no thought given to species migration.

It's time to join all those pieces together now.

Please visit

My comment relates to the wilderness areas associated with many national parks. I love backpacking in these wilderness areas. In the last few decades however, the wilderness areas have been invaded by packtrain operators. Packtrains carry 20 to 40 persons into the wilderness. These people know little about living in the wilderness, therefore they are messy and do not take care of their food. As a result, the wilderness areas have become overpopulated with scavenging bears.

I would like all pack and riding animals banned from wilderness areas. This would greatly reduce the human impact on these wilderness areas.

With the depopulation of North Dakota, and the potential population declines with the dropping Ogalala aquifer, a central North American Grassland free range area that reintroduced the possibility of Bison migrations would be an awesome thing to behold. I have no idea how it would be managed, but imagine if the pre-European grassland ecosystem could be reestablished.

BLM v. NPS management of Grand Staircase-Escalante & the other Clinton Antiquities Act monuments is a separate issue from what they should be managed for. The designation as National Monuments specifies the same thing either way, including continued grazing in some. Note that several NPS-managed NPS units have active oil leases, grazing, even oyster farming.

I, too, much prefer the no-hassles experience in areas managed by BLM that don't also have ORV use, mining, logging, etc. There _are_ some NPS units where the same no-hassle rules apply. I'm resigned to the rules & restrictions as necessary whenever visitor use is high: a few folks can camp and collect firewood and hike without trails with minimal impact, just like a moderate number of mountain bikers can ride trails with sustainable impact. 50 years ago that didn't scale to visitation in Yosemite Valley and parts of Yellowstone; now visitation to even Canyonlands and Joshua Tree is way too high to allow unfettered use without major damage to resource conditions.

What new units to add to the NPS system is an interesting question. It was posed to NPS directors & former directors (& Ken Burns & Dayton Duncan) at the George Wright Society. The consensus response was that such decisions shouldn't be centralized and come from them, but should come from the public.

Mt. St. Helens has been mentioned above, and I most certainly add my own support to include this significant landscape in the National Park System.

Another place of astounding natural beauty and cultural significance is Monument Valley. Since this special location is owned and managed by the Navajo Nation, perhaps some sort of NPS/Navajo partnership can be arranged to designate this fantastic area as a Native American National Park or Monument Valley National Park of the Navajo Nation.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

The NPS manages Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument with the BLM and doesn't do much in the way of development.

Giant Sequoia National Monument would be almost a no-go from the start. There are already several wilderness areas there, so it's not as if they would avoid development. In addition, there are already several business interests there (Montecito-Sequoia Lodge, Stony Creek Lodge, Kings Canyon Lodge, Hume Lake Christian Camp) that would put up a huge fuss over it. The run their enterprises in ways that wouldn't be possible under NPS jurisdiction. The NPS eliminated all the public gas stations in SEKI years ago, and the only nearby options for gas now are in Giant Sequoia NM. I'm not sure what would be done in that case. For the most part there's excellent cooperation between the NPS and Forest Service there. I remember going to the information booth at Grant Village, where there were volunteers from the Sequoia Natural History Association, as well as NPS and Forest Service rangers. The only way I could see it working if there were sections that weren't put under NPS control (perhaps Hume Lake) - although that would get tricky with their current Forest Service use permits. There are some private communities completely within NPS boundaries, including Wawona and Foresta in Yosemite, or Wilsonia in SEKI.

How about a thread for suggested historical or cultural additions?

Some wonderful ideas have been posted here.

-- re: transfers from the US Forest System: Admiralty Island

-- re: Rangertoo's point on american composer-musicians: John Coltrane's house, already qualified as a National Historic Landmark, in Philadelphia

-- re: Cultural impact: Harriet Tubman's complex in Auburn New York, of house, hospital, church and social services. Not only was Tubman a spy during the Civil War, and a major force and inspiration on the Underground Railroad, but she then continued her tremendous work in Auburn. These sites also already are and/or qualify as National Historic Landmarks. A bill is pending before Congress for a park for Tubman in Auburn (where she received an invitation to settle from Secretary of State William Seward), but also a park in Maryland. The problem with the Maryland designation is an absence of qualifying historic structures, or specifically identifiable sites. But we need the Tubman site in New York if this key story about America is to be told properly.

-- I really want to second Michael Kellett's recommendation for a multi-state national park encompassing the Chesapeake Bay. It needs to be constructed through partnership with multiple landowners, similar to such landscapes as national parks in the United Kingdom.

-- With the same partnership model as the Chesapeake, the Blackstone River Valley in Rhode Island and Mass., with its many hilltop colonial villages and valley early industrial villages, also needs to be designated as a national park. Distinctive ways American's live on distinctive landscapes is as important to America as to other nations in the world, and should be so recognized here as well. Instead of being frozen in time, such places can demonstrate continual environmental improvement and the cultural emphasis on what makes a region special over time.

Actually there are visitors centers for Grand Staircase. A friend and I hiked Cottonwood Canyon last autumn and stopped in at the BLM's Cannonville Visitor Center to check on road and canyon conditions (there had been a drowning a few days before due to flash flooding). The VC had a small museum, maps, a gift shop, etc. very like a national park center.

If you check out the BLM's website for Grand Staircase, other VCs are listed as well.

I would love to see both segments of the Hiawatha National Forest made into the "The Three Great Lakes National Park". By designating these Federal lands as a huge National Park, we could connect three of the shores of the Great Lakes--Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior by a continuous forest. Imagine a National Park at the doorstep of the Midwest--accessable to Chicago, Detroit,Milwaukee, Minneapolis etc. All this could be made into a National Monument by the stoke of the President's pen. What a great addition to our nation, and gift to the people of the MidWest and the nation. Gabe Sheridan

Hi I saw your recommendations for national parks online. I would hope that the Hiawatha National Forest (both segments) in the Upper Penisula of Michigan be made into the "Three Great Lakes National Park." All the land is Federal land, and it would connect by a park the shores of three of the Great lakes--Michigan, Huron and Superior. What a great mid west park that would be. Since it is all on Federal lands, the presidsent with the stroke of the pen could create it all as a National Monument, as a prelude to national park Status. Gabe Sheridan

I'd note that there are historical reports of an effort to turn the Lake Tahoe Basin (California and Nevada) into a national park between 1915 and 1925. Several California legislators tried to push that through. That was long before there was any large scale development. There were a few scattered private resorts in the area. It would have been relatively easy and most of the area was (still is) federal land.

Right now it would next to impossible to turn the area into a national park. There are just way too many people living there now. Any move to turn over the Forest Service lands to the NPS would be shot down by the locals.