603. The National Parks & the Sawtooth N.R.A.

A Brief History of National Parks

The National Parks, the Disneyland of Wilderness or a system designed that allows the public to enjoy nature’s greatest wonders while still ensuring their conservation? The truth, like most things I think, probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Yellowstone, The United States’ First National Park
The Grand Tetons, The United States’s ’ Best National Park??

Many times, in these Good Things, I bury the lead at the bottom. Can an old Tiger grow new stripes?? Hell no! That’s just ridiculous. Tigers, stripes?!!?? Geez!

But can you teach an old dog new tricks?!!?? Hell yes you can! I know this for a fact. Here’s a funny old dog video…

Old Cats & Dogs can be Funny Too!, Tiger Productions

Well you didn’t think I was just going to hand it over on a silver platter now did ya?? The lead:

National Parks are a good thing but can be too much of a good thing. The Sawtooth Mountain Range’s history of becoming a National Recreation Area vs. a National Park more closely preserved a place on this earth I love above all others better than becoming Idaho’s version of a nature amusement park. Wilderness was never intended to be humanity’s Disney Land.

First Yellowstone…

Montana Reporters Doing The Right Thing Around Bison

So Yellowstone was the first National Park created in 1872 by none other than that cray cray Union General turned President, Mr. Ulysses S. Grant. I have Yellowstone and Yosemite forever mixed up in my mind though I’ve been to both places. Of the two, I’m more drawn to Yosemite. I like dramatic rock, big changes in elevation and granted both parks are tied to some very personal emotions for me. Yosemite visiting when we were pregnant with our first child C. Yellowstone when Z was born & it was our first trip out as a family of 4. And Yellowstone again recently with C & Me as he gets ready for a new life in Nashville.

I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had at Yellowstone for the world. The recent spiritual moments of getting caught out in the rain at Mammoth Hot Springs chasing C up the boardwalk stairs enjoying the rain washing over us, feeling the sheer and terrifying power of water as it continues to carve stone slowly over the lower falls of YNP’s Grand Canyon.

Freaky Big Hand Sighting at YNP’s Lower Falls

But truth be told, I have a hard time truly enjoying Yellowstone as a whole. Something about the folly of car jams all day long in the middle of “wilderness,” gets to me a bit. It kinda takes what I love most and taints it a bit. Okay a helluva of a bit. Cars moving through a herd of Bison and me worrying about a car getting charged with their windows rolled down facing off a Bison in the middle of the road?? That surely deserves satire doesn’t it? And a million and one cars parked to get out like a TMZ photo shoot when there is an elk 500 feet away. And how much steamy water can one stand in a single day!!??? I get it nature already!! You can make people come in droves to tour what is basically a volcanic caldera waiting to erupt and you can have the last laugh when it happens!! I get it already cruel ass nature!! Geez!!!

But still… these Yellowstone Videos in Slo-Mo can provide a form of visual meditation that on some level is good for the soul. Try it, you’ll like it…

Falls in Slo-Mo
Mammoth H.S.’s Slo-Mo

And now for the Tetons. Let’s just let mountains and music speak for themselves shall we?? The better (for me) of the two National Parks I was just in yesterday and shared a once in a lifetime bonding experience w/ my son C & of course some music to match!!

Taggert Lake with the Grand’s in the Background and…
Peter Gabriel’s “A Different Drum,” for The Passion of Christ Soundtrack

And now let’s just let the Sawtooths speak for themselves and post up a bit of the history and call it Good for the day shall we??

The U.S. Forest Service’s lack of money and focused priorities has prompted some to question the 1972 decision to protect four mountain ranges, more than 1,000 lakes, 40 peaks higher than 10,000 feet and the headwaters of four major Idaho rivers as a recreation area instead of a national park. Parks generally get higher profiles, bigger budgets, and better visitor services and interpretive programs.

But Nourse, who worked as deputy ranger in the SNRA more than a decade ago, thinks Idaho’s congressional delegation made the right choice. Led by Democratic Sen. Frank Church, Idaho leaders created a hybrid recreation area that has withstood the test of time.

“It’s as much about what you don’t see as what you see,” Nourse said.

You don’t see the valleys filled with subdivisions of second homes stretching out from towns filled with huge resort hotels, Walmarts and other chains – like in Jackson, Wyo., near Grand Teton National Park. Stanley has seen only minor development in the past four decades, retaining its small, mountain-town character.

What you do see is the result of the vision of a few state leaders, activists and others who wanted the landscape preserved.

Church, Republican Sen. Len Jordan and Republican Reps. Jim McClure and Orval Hansen championed the law establishing the SNRA to protect fish and wildlife, halt significant new development and retain the area’s pastoral character. Their efforts came after a fight by conservationists to stop an open-pit molybdenum mine at Castle Peak in the White Clouds.

Cecil Andrus made the mine fight the centerpiece of his successful 1970 gubernatorial campaign, broadening support for the area and laying the groundwork for the delegation’s work.

But a combination of Idaho Falls nuclear workers and others who formed the Sawtooth Preservation Council didn’t think the Idaho delegation was ambitious enough.

A National Park Service plan presented at the time would have managed the valleys as national recreation areas and the mountains as a national park, said John Freemuth, a Boise State University political science professor and a former park ranger. The national recreation area designation allowed more flexibility. Okay

Visitors to a Sawtooth National Park would have seen a different place. As a national park, it inevitably would have attracted more visitors. Today about 1. 2 million people visit the SNRA annually.

Grand Teton National Park, which Freemuth said might be a comparable model, gets 3.8 million visitors who pay $25 per vehicle per week.

Most of all, there would have been more money for better visitor services and staffing. Grand Teton’s 2012 budget is $12.1 million, while the SNRA budget is just $2.8 million.

The Sawtooth National Forest has long had a small budget because it never had the big-money timber that drove national forest budgets for decades and laid the base for today’s forests. The SNRA has suffered with it.

“The Forest Service never figured out what to do with national recreation areas,” Freemuth said.

“We thought we were going to have to close the visitor center,” Nourse said.

What happened next is what sets the Sawtooth National Recreation Area apart.

Gadwa’s group teamed with volunteers from the Sawtooth Society and private businesses to take over the visitor center.

The Forest Service at first balked, said Gadwa, a retired conservation officer in Stanley.

But with Nourse’s backing, the local groups remodeled the center and expanded interpretive programs both at the center and in the forest. They were able to hire a retired SNRA employee as executive director.

This summer, programs are scheduled daily, and the groups hope to reach out to more children, Gadwa said.

Volunteerism is at the heart of the Sawtooth Society, started by Andrus; Hansen; Church’s widow, Bethine; and the late McClure. The group was critical in efforts in the 1990s to get Sen. Mike Crapo to push for additional federal funds to buy easements from landowners to prevent development northwest of Stanley.

Since it formed in 1997, Sawtooth Society members have raised more than $600,000 for 150 projects.

It is working with the Forest Service to buy – and close – a state of Idaho gravel pit still used in the Sawtooth Valley, said Gary O’Malley, the executive director.

As summer approaches, tens of thousands of Idahoans will drive up to camp, hike, boat, fish, etc, hunt and just soak up the scenery of a unique place.

For 40 years, Idahoans have stepped up as volunteers, voters or supporters to keep the Sawtooths special.

“People have a lot of ownership in that,” Nourse said.

Good thingz!!

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