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Traveler's Five Picks For New National Parks

Pretty enough to be within a national park. Green River Lakes, Wind River Range. Photo by G. Thomas via Wikipedia.

Creating national parks doesn't happen every day. Lately, it seems the quickest way to create one is to legislatively redesignate a national monument as a national park (See Pinnacles National Park). But it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

Here are five picks from the Traveler for new national parks. We offer up these nominees without consideration to fiscal impact because once you start to consider the costs -- mainly economic costs, but also political -- the possible can become impossible. With that understood, we view the following locations as truly spectacular places that should be preserved for future generations.

* Wind River Range, Wyoming

The Wind River Range in west-central Wyoming visibly defines spectacular. With 40 peaks that soar above 13,000 feet, including the state's highest point at 13,809 feet, glaciers, grizzlies, elk, bighorn sheep, lakes and trout streams, this craggy range runs roughly 100 miles north to south and 30 miles east to west.

Currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the range contains officially designated wilderness and is one of the country's premier hiking and backpacking areas. The range also harbors the headwaters of the Green River.

You can lose yourself in the Winds for days on end, spot North America's largest herd of bighorn sheep, find challenging climbing routes, or fancy yourself as a latter-day mountain man.

* Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

This 756,000-acre NRA long has been considered for inclusion in the National Park System. Indeed, back in 1911 a group of women in Idaho called for such a move, according to a history of the NRA's creation.

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Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth NRA. Photo by Fredlyfish4  via Wikipedia.

In 1960, then-U.S. Sen. Frank Church introduced legislation to have the area considered for park status, and six years later even introduced a bill calling for Sawtooth National Park, but local opposition derailed it.

This wide expanse of wild lures river runners, climbers, backcountry skiers, anglers, backpackers and more. Cyclists challenge themselves on attacking the highway over Galena Summit, while families carry on long traditions of camping at Redfish Lake.

* Maine North Woods, Maine

New England needs another national park, and the one proposed for the North Woods would not just be gorgeous, but would benefit wildlife species such as Canada lynx, Atlantic salmon and the eastern timber wolf threatened with extinction for lack of habitat and protect the "wild forests of New England."

The hardwood forests, lakes, and rivers would help build a strong recreation sector that would pump money into the surrounding towns. The streams and lakes here long have been plied by canoeists.

Talk of creating such a national park extends back over two decades. Proponents, along with pointing to the natural resources that could be protected, believe the cachet of a "Maine North Woods National Park" would bolster the region's economy through businesses that cater to park visitors.

* Ancient Forest National Park, California and Oregon

With climate change under way, protecting migrational routes, and providing migrational routes, for wildlife and even plants is vital to help ensure their survival.

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The boundaries of the proposed Ancient Forest National Park run from Oregon south into California.

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis back in August of 2011 called for establishing "a national system of parks and protected sites (rivers, heritage areas, trails, and landmarks) that fully represents our natural resources and the nation's cultural experience." He also cited the need for creation of "continuous corridors" to support ecosystems.

The proposed 3.8-million-acre Ancient Forest National Park spanning parts of southern Oregon and northern California would meet those goals.

Within its proposed borders there already exist officially designated wilderness and roadless areas, places perfect for both recreation and wildlife.

The proposal is to set aside a solid block of land 3.8 million acres from the Rogue River in Oregon to the Eel 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 about 1 million acres of unprotected inventoried roadless areas.

* San Rafael Swell, Utah

Talk of turning the Swell into a national park has simmered for decades, going back to the 1930s when local officials proposed a "Wayne Wonderland National Monument." The proposal went nowhere, for the Swell, but is pointed to as an impetus for Capitol Reef National Park.

Nevertheless, the wondrous landscape of colorful reefs of rock, deep canyons, and sandstone walls bearing ancient pictographs remain. So, too, do the tales of outlaws such as Butch and Sundance losing possees by galloping into the maze of canyons. Within the Swell you can find ancient granaries, stone arches, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, feral horses and mules, homesteader cabins, and old mining operations. There are opportunities for canyoneering, river running, backpacking and day hiking and more.

Today there are fewer and fewer pristine and preserved areas left in the country, a fact that has the clock ticking on the few remaining places that deserve national park status. While much opposition no doubt exists to each of the above proposals, they could be crafted in such a way to mollify many of the critics.

By creating a "national park and preserve," the enacting legislation could be written in a way to allow some traditional ways of life, whether they involve grazing livestock, hunting, or logging in a sustainable fashion. Communities could remain in place, with the "park-and-preserve" boundaries excluding them. 

What other places do you think should be added to the park system?

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Interesting article in our local paper. Looks like I am not the only one deterred because I like to vacation with my dog.

Working on my Montana road trip iternary. Would really like to visit Little Bighorn NM. Alas, no pets. Two visitors detered.


I don't necessarily disagree with you. But the way I see it is that it's going to be hard to connect those lands to create a continuous park. For example, to connect the dolly sods to spruce knob and then over to the Seneca NRA, you have to cut across numerous private lands. Also, look at all the transmission lines that criss cross this area in the proposed map? It would be a major undertaking to reroute the grid.

Also, how do you create a park with all those towns and farms? I just don't see how it could feasibly work without displacing thousands. Currently what is protected are the segmented lands that would comprise the park. Many of these places are not very large continuous blocks of public land. THe mon has a lot of private development in it. It's not like a western national forest. So, it's going to be very tough, just like most of the places in the East.

Does it really matter whether a protected area becomes a National Park, a National Monument, a National Forest? Just protect vulnerable areas in some way from developers, special interest groups that would destroy the environment (read oil interests, coal, gas, etc). Wildlife, plants, trees, water, and people need natural and sacred areas to thrive. Our planet will be better for it.

You are too dismissive of High Allegheny. There are several large contiguous blocks of land. Just depends how the map is drawn. Nearly a million acres of MNF to work with (plus Canaan NWR and other possible lands), and there NEVER has been a plan to make the entire MNF a park. Would never fly in WV, a state full of hunters. If it happened, I have the feeling that it would be in the 40,000-100,000 acre range, as are many fine parks. It's true you will never get a Yellowstone out of that area, but there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If that's your standard, we'll never have another park unit. I do believe the east needs more parks.

Extractive industry is the bigger threat.

That's not what I saw at all. The area under North Mountain that makes up a part of the Seneca Rocks NRA has a lot of private lands throughout. There is a giant open mine just south of Seneca Rocks, and it is large. Canaan Valley which would be the "central part" of the park has a LOT, and I mean a LOT of development. I don't know how the heck they could make a National Park out of that area with how many cabins and development are in those corridors.

Don't get me wrong, it is very beautiful in spots. But it would require a major philantrophist to start a hundred year process to even make this place work. Sure, a land will heal long term, and maybe that should be the goal, but in it's current state it would be such a patchwork of lands that I don't see it working.

That's interesting, SmokyMountainMan. My understanding was that all of the territory under consideration for the proposed park is already public land.

I spent some time in the High Allegheny this year, and it would take a major donor like a Rockerfeller to establish that park properly. The problem is that a lot of private land surrounds that area. Seneca Rocks NRA is a beautiful place, and the Dolly Sods and the mountain that extends for 20 miles that is slated for natural gas development has potential, but it would require a massive financial undertaking to properly protect that area.

Its the exact same problem that Maine Woods is going through. The mosaic of private lands, and the want to maintain hunting on those lands is going to hinder it from ever happening.

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