Valles Caldera National Preserve. Courtesy/NPS
With today’s Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress has approved the most significant expansion of the National Park System in nearly three decades.
The legislation includes the approval of Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Las Alamos as well as Hanford, Wash., and Oak Ridge, Tenn.
“This bipartisan legislation represents years of work by community members, business leaders, scientists and National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA),” said Clark Bunting, president and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “It also represents years of history that deserve to be preserved, and acres of land that deserve to be protected in the name of strengthening our country’s best idea. This legislation clearly demonstrates that Congress and the Administration are making national parks a national priority.”
“The designation of Valles Caldera National Preserve as a national park site is the culmination of years of hard work by local communities, advocates, and local state and Federal political leaders who recognized that the superlative landscape demands the breadth of National park service management,” said David Nimkin, senior regional director of the Southwest Region, National Parks Conservation Association. “Protection of its natural and scientific values and management of visitor enjoyment are hallmarks of the National Park Service; this designation affirms that this wondrous place will be protected and enjoyed for generations.”
“The passage of the Valles Caldera National Preserve from its unsustainable ‘trust’ management experiment to the stable and protective National Park System is a permanent tribute to the hard work and persistence of many local people who care deeply about the Valles Caldera and who dedicated themselves to this clear vision,” said Tom Ribe, executive director of Caldera Action. “From treading around in the mountains to treading the halls of our nation’s capital, our local movement, supported by the National Parks Conservation Association, has reached the finish line – for which we are all grateful.”
The legislation carried with it the approval of seven new national park sites, including Valles National Preserve and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park; the expansion of nine national park sites, and the extension of 15 National Heritage Areas, effectively shaking loose a five-year stalemate on public lands measures in Congress. It also authorizes the National Park Service to study Civil War battlefield grounds in Mill Springs, Ky.; areas related to the Buffalo Soldiers, often considered the original guardians of our national parks; and other important places for future national park consideration. The measure is now on its way to President Obama for his signature, at which time it will officially become law.