A decision by National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis that there are wilderness quality lands in Wupatki National Monument has spurred a request that the Park Service review nine other parks where it has in the past concluded no such lands existed.
Since 1971, the Park Service has identified 10 units where it didn't see any lands qualified for wilderness designation. Wupatki had been one of those 10 units, but Director Jarvis earlier this year signed off on a determination that almost all of the 35,422-acre monument was worthy of such designation.
That recognition brought approval from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which often is critical of the Park Service.
"Dear Director Jarvis:
"Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has not often had the opportunity to commend you. But when you act to protect park resources, we owe you our support and commendation. In March 2013 you signed a wilderness eligibility determination for Wupatki National Monument, Arizona. The determination found over 34,000 acres eligible for wilderness. Your action, along with the conversion of potential wilderness to full wilderness at the Drake’s Bay in Point Reyes National Seashore at the end of 2012, advanced the unfinished wilderness agenda of the parks..."
PEER's letter to Director Jarvis last week also pointed out that the Wupatki determination was particularly noteworthy because the Park Service was not ordered by a court to perform the wilderness eligibility review.
"More encouraging, the Wupatki determination is the FIRST time in the nearly 50-year history of wilderness review that the NPS has reversed an earlier determination that a park contained no lands suitable (eligible) for wilderness," continued PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.
The PEER official went on to note that since 1971 the Park Service has determined that 10 areas of the park system contained no acreage with suitable, or eligible, lands for wilderness designation. Wupatki National Monument had been one of those ten, and PEER expressed hopes that the director's decision on wilderness quality lands there would lead to renewed looks at the nine other parks for wilderness quality acreage.
Those other units are: Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, Biscayne National Park in Florida, Canaveral National Seashore in Florida, Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, New River Gorge National River in West Virginia, Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.