Supporters Of a Mount St. Helens National Park Want National Park Service To Study That Possibility

Another request has been made on Congress to direct the National Park Service to study the possibility of transferring Mount St. Helens from the U.S. Forest Service so it can be designated a national park.

In a letter outlining the request to U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Mount St. Helens is portrayed as a monument in decline, one that has seen annual visitation drop from 1 million in the years immediately following the volcano's eruption to fewer than 250,000 today.

"Paralleling this decline has been the closure of visitor centers and other visitor services. All this has negatively impacted the economies of the monument’s gateway communities," reads the letter, which was signed by more than 30 local elected officials, business owners, community leaders, conservationists, and park supporters.

This is just the latest request for such a designation. As long ago as 2007 there was an effort in Congress to transfer the mountain from the Forest Service to the Park Service. At the time proponents of the move referred to Forest Service budget woes that led to the closure of a visitor center.

“Adding Mount St. Helens to the National Park System would help improve regional prestige, increase visitation, enhance recreation and conservation opportunities,” said Mark Plotkin, former director of the Cowlitz County Tourism Bureau.

The letter specifically asks Rep. Herrera Beutler to sponsor legislation seeking a special resources study that would require the Park Service to investigate the national significance of Mount St. Helens, and determine whether its inclusion in the park system is warranted.

"Mount St. Helens is likely the most iconic landscape currently not in the National Park System. However, its natural, cultural, and historic wonders are on par with other national park sites. Our mountain, our communities, and state deserve the benefits that will come with national park designation. We encourage you to support legislation calling for the investigation of a Mount St. Helens national park," reads the letter.

“It’s time to take a serious look into making Mount St. Helens a national park,” said Mark Smith, owner of the Eco Park Resort. “A special resource study is the best way to get all the facts on the table about adding our mountain to the park system.”

Community leaders believe transferring management of Mount St. Helens to the Park Service would benefit the regional economy, including Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. Recent studies reveal that national parks are huge economic engines, pumping nearly $13 billion in economic activity into gateway communities, as well as supporting more than a quarter million jobs.

For every dollar spent on national parks, four dollars are returned to the economies of gateway communities, according to studies prepared for the National Parks Conservation Association. More than seven million people visited Washington’s national parks last year alone, and national parks nationwide received near record-breaking visitors, despite one of the toughest economies in decades.

“Mount St. Helens is an international gem, worth preserving for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. The mountain and its surrounding communities deserve the prestige, recognition, and stability that would come with making it a national park,” said Sean Smith, policy director with NPCA and a former Mount St. Helens ranger.

Comments

Mt. St. Helens should be a national park, but not because it'll help the economies of the gateway communities. That is not nor should it be the primary (or secondary, or tertiary) purpose of legislating new national parks.
Mt. St. Helens should be a national park because it's an incredible place. Period.

I agree that Mount St. Helen's is a wonderful place. I visited it briefly in June and thought it was gorgeous. Truly a worthy addition to the National Park system

Six years ago I visited; it is one of the most unique places I've been: a stark contrast of death and new life. I was amazed to learn earlier this year when I was doing a personal NP Unit tally that I could not include it as a visited site. It should atleast be granted Monument status and transferred to the NPS.

Friends of the National Park system should be furious about the virtual non-existence of infrastructure, and bizarre notions of resource protection at Mt. St. Helens! The monument was created in its current "unusual" form to allow salvage logging in the wake of the 1980 eruptions. Since then, management by the USFS has proven to be a slow-motion disaster, yet there is shockingly little local energy to effect change. Current efforts, to get the local US rep. (Herrera-Beutler) simply to support a special resource study, are struggling to gain ground, as so few people really know about the issues. Tell your friends, and help save this amazing place from a slow death due to hybridized mis-management!

Blackfeet Dreamer:
Six years ago I visited; it is one of the most unique places I've been: a stark contrast of death and new life. I was amazed to learn earlier this year when I was doing a personal NP Unit tally that I could not include it as a visited site. It should atleast be granted Monument status and transferred to the NPS.
It does have National Monument status. However, it's under the jurisdiction of the USDA Forest Service as with several other National Monuments including Giant Sequoia National Monument. Some people like the range of activities that the FS allows that the NPS typically doesn't, such as hunting and collecting. I remember driving between SEKI at Giant Sequoia NM, and saw someone carrying several pine cones that were legally collected on FS land.

I've been there and thought that the interpretive programs they had were first rate, although they no longer have a year round visitor center.

Changing Mt. St. Helens directly to a National Park is a misguided and uninformed idea. The current monument was designed to be within a larger Forest Service area. Transferring to a Nat. Park would create a morass of intertwined USFS/Nat. Park roads, trails, facilities and ideas. You would be adding an additional agency, with its additional beauracracy. The Congressional Advisory Committe came to a sound conclusion: give the Monument line-item funding, and improve access and recreation. The word "park" will not improve visitation without additional things to do for visitors--look at Washingtons newest Nat. Park (N. Cascades) one of the 10 LEAST visited parks in the country. We all know national parks restrict or limit recreation, in favor of more preservation. Sure we can criticize the Forest Service, but give the advisory committe recommendations a fighting chance!

A national park within or bordering a large Forest Service area is hardly unusual. That's the case with many of our major National Parks in the west, including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, SEKI, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake, Mt Rainier, Olympic, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone. Canyonlands and Arches are surrounded by BLM land. They all have to have cooperative agreements. I know that backpackers can get their permits issued by the agency controlling the entrance trailhead, and other agencies honor that permit. I had a great experience at SEKI, where Giant Sequoia NM (Forest Service) is effectively just another part of SEKI save some services that the NPS has eliminated such as public gas stations. I visited the Grant Village visitor center, and they had FS rangers serving on staff there alongside NPS employees and Sequoia Natural History Association personnel. It seemed to work pretty well.

Regardless of all that, I personally don't know if Mt St Helens needs to be designated a National Park.

As a local who's family has been visiting the area for years, it worries me that the monument might be transitioned into a national park. The area has been enjoyed by my family for several generations and this is true with all the local families. Hunting, fishing, shooting, camping, hiking, berry picking, etc. are a big part of the recreation there going back as long as my family has been in north america. Most of these activities would be prohibited in a national park, or at least restricted unacceptably. The local communities and families would lose a big part of their heritage and be locked out of the very land they have enjoyed and supported for generations. It sounds funny to say it, but it's something that a tourist to the area just can't understand properly. The whole area is a very special place, but partially because of it's heritage of being enjoyed in ways that cannot be allowed in the national park system.

I visited Mount St. Helens several years ago. Before we all jump on the bandwagon to make it a National Park we need to consider what kind of a NP it would be. There are many current uses that do not fit with the traditional NP view. This is not to say it shouldn't be transfered to the NPS, but I can guarantee it would be expensive and a nightmare for the NPS to change ongoing uses.

Don't do it! Let the real folks enjoy the environs. The elitests just might bridge the gap and discover what they've been missing, really.