Public Lands Current Events February 2018

This past month there’s been quite a lot going on in the Public Lands world, and so I thought we would spend today catching up on February’s current events.

60th National Park established


While the National Park Service manages over 400 different lands, until recently only 59 of those were actually national parks. That all the changed this weekend with the conversion of Jefferson Expansion National Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri into Gateway Arch National Park, making it the 60th National Park. The national memorial had existed before the construction of the Gateway Arch and over the years the park has come to be known better for the arch it contains. Park officials think the new name better reflects the park as it has come to be known. It took an act of Congress to change its status with President signing the bill into law on February 22nd.


Resolution to Exempt Utah from Antiquities Act passes Utah House


The Antiquities Act, which allows Presidents to designate national monuments, has been used pretty frequently in recent years. Most notably, it was used to establish Bear Ears National Monument in Utah in December 2016. That controversial act was one of the main things that spurred the Utah House of Representatives to pass a resolution asking Congress to exempt the state from the Antiquities Act. This would require congressional approval to establish any new national monuments. Currently the only two states in which the act is exempted are Wyoming and Alaska. Famously, Wyoming asked to be exempted after the establishment of Jackson Hole National Monument, which would later be joined with Grand Teton National Park.


Successful Search and Rescue in Yosemite


When Alan Chow went missing in Yosemite during a snowstorm, the worst was feared. He had a permit for one night in Hetch Hetchy when he got lost after the trails were covered with snow. When he did not show up for work two days later, he was reported missing. Luckily, Mr. Chow was prepared and experienced. He stayed put in his tent, sheltered from the weather, and melted snow for water. The sixth day into his ordeal, he was spotted from a helicopter and successfully rescued.


Budget Proposed for the Department of Interior


On February 12, President Trump released his 11.7 billion dollar budget plan for the Department of the Interior. While the budget is lower than previous years, it does include a focus on the maintenance backlog. The specifics of the new budget include $805 million to address the $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog in our National Parks, which accounts for 69% of Interior’s $16 billion deferred maintenance backlog. However, the base budget for the National Park Service is 2.4 billion dollars, about a half billion less than previous years. But with the additional funds to address the maintenance backlog, that might help fill in the gap. Another directive that is mentioned is that the budget directs funds to maintain the lands we have, rather than purchasing land we cannot afford. Which may not be a bad thing.