A congressional effort to have Pinnacles National Monument redesignated as a "national park" is opposed by the National Park Service because the monument contains a limited array of resources.
U.S. Rep. Sam Farr of California believes the monument's 14,500 acres with their unique geology and many species that are either threatened or endangered at the state or federal level deserve the title.
"Upgrading Pinnacles to a national park makes sense for historic, natural and economic reasons,” the Democrat said Friday back in August. “This area is much more than rock formations. It’s a huge swatch of land with historical significance for the state, it provides an important refuge for the California condor and it has great potential for tourism revenue.”
The monument is one of the oldest ones in the National Park System, having been designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. It received its name from "rock spires and crags that are remnants of an ancient volcano," notes the National Park Service. "The volcano eroded over millions of years as it moved northward along the San Andreas Fault. Rock debris in the form of boulders has weathered and settled, leaving behind spires of volcanic rock and talus caves."
However, when the measure came up Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands the Park Service opposed the name change.
"The monument has truly extraordinary natural resources and has played a crucial role in the reintroduction of the California condor to its traditional range in California. However, under longstanding practice, the term 'national park' has generally been reserved for units that contain a variety of resources and encompasses large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources. Pinnacles National Monument does not include the full range of resources usually found in national parks," said Steve Whitesell, the agency's associate director for park planning, facilities, and lands.
"Additionally, the department has been reviewing the recommendations recently made by the National Parks Second Century Commission," he continued. "One of the recommendations is to substantially reduce the more than two dozen different park titles currently used for units of the National Park System. In response to this recommendation, a departmental task force will be looking at a comprehensive plan for renaming many of our park units. This effort will be particularly important for determining which units are appropriate candidates for the title 'national park,' which is sought by supporters of some other units throughout the country that are not currently designated as such. Under a nomenclature with fewer titles, it is possible that Pinnacles and other units with similar characteristics should have 'national park' in their title. However, until the task force’s work has been completed, we request that the committee not act on legislation to rename any units as national parks."
In promoting his bill, Rep. Farr told the subcommittee the national monument is more than meets the eye.
"The park is unique in our country for a variety of reasons. It is one of the few regions in the world that boasts a Mediterranean climate; it serves as home for dozens of federally protected species; it has a long, rich cultural history; it serves as a center for geological science, it’s an area of unspoiled beauty; and opening this summer thanks to the use of Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase the Pinnacles Ranch the Pinnacles Campground is now within the boundaries of Pinnacles National Monument, and is managed by a concessionaire," he said.
Additionally, said the Democrat, his office has started talks with an adjacent landowner who would be interested in selling 18,000 to the government for addition to the monument, a move that would boost its overall size to 44,000 acres.
"I bring this to the Subcommittee’s attention because this future addition to the Pinnacles system will add a parcel of land rich in wildlife, land and water resources along with a four-mile stretch of the San Benito River and numerous springs," said Rep. Farr. "This property also nests condor 514, the first condor hatched in the county in at least 70 years. This magnificent bird recently took his first flight over historic condor breeding grounds in the San Benito back country."