Wednesday, August 02, 2017

"Delisted" by the NPS: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

Firehole Canyon Formations
Firehole Canyon Campground. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Wyoming.  August 12, 2014
Copyright © 2017 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

National Monuments in Danger

To comment on the marine monument and sanctuary review process 
(Due August 14, 2017):

For the last couple of days, I've been doing a lot of research on the 11 National Monuments that have been abolished since the creation of the first monument, Devils Tower, in 1906. With the review process moving along on the 27 monuments currently in danger of reduction or elimination, I figured that it would be nice to have some historical context to put all of this in.

While working on that research, I discovered some great information on 23 or 24 units, depending on the source, of the National Park Service (NPS) system that were "delisted" from 1916 through 1991. For the sake of providing additional historical context to the current debates over the 27 monuments, I will be sharing some material about these other sites over the next couple of months.

As I wrote in a post a few days ago, this is all a part of the evolution of this project. While the primary focus, for now, will remain on the 27 monuments under review, I foresee this project expanding over time to cover many different issues with our national parks, monuments, and other protected areas. Already, today, I've expanded the project website quite a bit, and more changes are on their way.

So today's post is not on one of the 27 monuments, but on a National Recreation Area.  It is a former NPS site that was transferred by Congress to the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) in 1968.

Consistent with a departmental policy of reducing joint administrations, the USNPS withdrew in 1968, and the USFS administers the entire area today...   The former USNPS portion, north of the Unita Mountains, is characterized by rolling sagebrush rangelands sloping gently west from the shore of the reservoir, and by more abrupt relief to the east. The picturesque Firehole Canyon is part of this area.  Campground and boat launch facilities were developed by the USNPS at several sites, including Lucerne Valley on the western shore and Antelope Flat on the eastern.  

-- Alen K. Hogenauer 

The dam and reservoir system is managed by the Department of Reclamation, and an administrative agreement was signed on July 22, 1963 with the NPS regarding the recreational management of the lake. In this way, an article from National Parks Traveler explains, "without a Congressional mandate – there was no specific act of Congress -- Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area became a unit of the National Park System."

However, at the time, the NPS was actually trying to become less involved with the management of reservoirs, and saw this as little more than a brief "custodial arrangement not destined to last any longer than it had to." The NRA was only a part of the National Park System for five years because of this, and on October 1, 1968, Congress passed the responsibility of the NRA to the USFS' Ashley National Forest.

Other reservoirs the NPS unburdened themselves of include portions of the Shasta Lake National Recreation Area in 1948, the Shadow Mountain National Recreation Area in 1979, both of which passed to the USFS, the Lake Texoma National Recreation Area which passed to the U. S. Army Corps. of Engineers in 1949, and the Millerton Lake National Recreation Area which passed to the State of California in 1957.

In the article's comments, there is a discussion among the readers about the Park Service's management of reservoirs, and almost everyone seems to agree with the Service's approach to this here.

One reader suggested that the deciding factor should be whether or not the park offered more than just "water-based recreation," suggesting that Recreation Areas like Glen Canyon, Lake Mead, and Ross Lake (part of the North Cascades National Park Complex) all seem like good fits for the NPS because "the surrounding holdings are extensive and worthy natural and cultural resources," while Recreation Areas like Lake Roosevelt, Lake Meredith, Amistad, and Curecanti may be better run by the USFS or the Army Corps of Engineers' "excellent public recreation operation."

Another reader pointed out, "The NPS apparently very much wants to keep Curecanti NRA, and currently has a plan out for public comment that would expand Curecanti and calls on Congress to officially designate the NPS manager of the public land surrounding Curecanti's three reservoirs."

Personally, I'd hate to see Lake Roosevelt go away.  That was my local park growing up and where my love of the national parks first got started.

Of course, this is all just idle musings... There is no movement I know of looking at delisting any of the National Recreation Areas.

Ultimately, though, Flaming Gorge remains a National Recreation area, it's status has not changed, just the management.  It was not abolished, it just changed hands.  Unfortunately, with the 27 monuments, being a part of the National Park Service system is really only a factor for Katahdin Woods, the core of Craters of the Moon, and the Parashant section of Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument.  The rest of the monuments are not facing delisting by the Park Service, they are looking at the loss of National Monument status completely.

But it is interesting to note, all of the 11 National Monuments that were abolished had their status removed by Congress.  With Flaming Gorge, even just the change in management required Congressional action.  This suggests that the President does not have to power to unilaterally change our monuments, though I suspect that he will try.

If he does, it may be a long slog through the courts before any of these issues are resolved.

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

Wyoming / Utah
Established: October 22, 1963

324 Sq. Miles
USFS / NPS (Northern Portion)
NPS Withdrawal: October 1, 1968 by Congress

North Chimney Rock In Firehole Canyon (July 19, 2016)

National Monuments in Danger

To comment on the marine monument and sanctuary review process 
(Due August 14, 2017):

Video (By Others...)


National Parks Traveler

Pruning the Parks: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Was a National Park for Just Five Years



Flaming Gorge NRA:

Flaming Gorge Reservoir:

The George Wright Forum

Gone, But Not Forgotten: The Delisted Units of the U. S. National Park system (1991)

Green River, Flaming Gorge and Red Canyon: Historic 3D Photographs of Powell Survey 2nd Expedition 1871-2 (USGS)


About "Abolished" National Mouments

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