A Tentative List of Potential National Monuments

President Obama could do a lot here- Here are my suggestions for new national monuments which Obama could designate. I have visited every site I recommend here, so I’m personally familiar with the areas. I have tried to put together a list that I think deserve protection, but also have some substantial political momentum in that various legislative measures have been introduced into Congress but are stalled, or there is at least some local political or conservation support for protection. An example is the Greater Canyonlands expansion in Utah. Quite a number were on the short list of 14 areas identified in the leaked national monument paper.

Though any of the areas listed in that working paper would be great additions to the national monument system, there are yet other areas that are either more threatened, and/or have some strong political support that are currently being thwarted by partisan politics.

I have four areas listed in Oregon, and this in part because I think Oregon’s protected areas are under-represented and unprotected compared to adjacent states like California and Washington. Oregon’s political delegation is also likely to look more favorably upon national monument designation than some other western states. I have provided some links and background on each area and the rationale why they should be given special protection.

Maine Woods. Maine  The Maine Woods is the largest expanse of intact forest east of the Rocky Mountains. Though parts of it have been heavily logged, there is a ten million acre core that has no year round community. Even in the West, you would be hard pressed to find such a large expanse of land without towns and cities. Since the 1990s “RESTORE the North Woods” has been promoting a 3.2 million acre Maine Woods National Park proposal. Since most of the proposal area is owned by private timber companies, and/or conservation groups like TNC and Appalachian Mountain Club, any large park would be the result of purchase from willing sellers or donation.

Fortunately Roxanne Quimby, former owner of Burt’s Bees, has purchased more than 100,000 acres along the east boundary of Baxter State Park, in the heart of this wild region and wants to create a national park. The proposed park includes portions of four major watersheds — Wassataquoik Stream, Sandy Stream, Seboeis River, and the wild, spectacular East Branch of the Penobscot River, which was explored by Henry David Thoreau in 1857. A 1976 Interior Department study found the East Branch to be qualified for National Wild and Scenic River status. With the acreage already protected in Baxter State Park, the combined wild area would be one of the largest wilderness blocks in the Northeast.

Within the shadow of 5,267-foot Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain, the proposed park would protect the ecosystems of the forested East Branch Penobscot valley, views to and from Baxter State Park, and a wide array of recreational opportunities spanning all four seasons.

The area has rich biodiversity, ranging from hilltops and barrens to ravines and coves, floodplain forests, and wet basins. Among the proposed park’s diverse wildlife is the federally threatened Canada lynx. The area is within a day’s drive of 50 million people in the northeastern U.S., a region that now has only one national park.

Quimby has offered to donate it for designation as a national park, but has indicated that a national monument is a possible alternative. Her donation, if accepted would jump start the creation of a much larger park.

RESTORE is certain that once people see the recreational, ecological, and economic benefits of a large national park in the region, there will be support for park expansion in the future. The NPS supports creation of a large park in the region which is currently under represented in the NPS system.

Despite local opposition, there is strong public support in Maine for a Maine Woods NP. According to a poll conducted by Zogby International in 2011:   Some 75 percent of Maine voters support setting aside 10–20 percent (1-2 million acres) of the Maine Woods for a public park. http://www.npca.org/news/media-center/press-releases/2010/Maine_Woods_9_1_10.html More information: C. Johnson, “A New National Park & Recreation Area in Northern Maine?, Natural Resources Council of Maine, 2014, http://www.nrcm.org/projects-hot-issues/woods-wildlife-and-wilderness/a-new-national-park-recreation-area-in-northern-maine/ (Accessed 21 April 2014) About Katahdin Woods & Waters, http://katahdinwoods.org/about/ Here’s information about RESTORE’s larger vision for the area. http://www.mainewoods.org/ http://www.restore.org/index_noflash.html

Rocky Mountain Front. Montana   The Rocky Mountain Front is south of Glacier National Park and west of Great Falls, Montana. It is a spectacular landscape where jagged peaks rise from the Great Plains like a wall. The area is still home to all the native species present at the time of Lewis and Clark including wolverine, lynx, wolf, grizzly bear, bighorn sheep, moose, elk, deer, mountain goat, and many smaller animals.

The Front is adjacent to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and part of the Glacier-Bob Marshall Ecosystem and part of the Crown of the Continent and Yellowstone to Yukon proposals. As a result of citizen collaborative efforts, a proposal has been hammered out that would designate approximately 67,000 acres of new wilderness and 208,000 acres as a conservation area.

I suspect if a national monument more or less followed the proposed legislation already introduced into Congress, there would be little opposition in Montana to designation, especially since one could argue that stone-walling by Republicans has precluded consideration of a bill widely supported in Montana.

The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act has the support of both Montana Senators and was originally introduced by Senator Baucus. There is a lot of local support for the heritage act and Obama could justify designation as a “thank you” gift to Senator Baucus for his years of work to protect the Front. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved the Heritage Act in November and recently the Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, as well as the Montana Outfitters Association both endorsed the proposal. All of the lands within the Rocky Mountain Heritage Act proposal are within the Lewis and Clark NF and/or adjacent BLM lands. Here’s a link to more background on the proposal. http://www.savethefront.org/

Boulder-White Clouds. Idaho.   The Boulder and White Cloud Mountains of Idaho rise just north of Sun Valley and Ketchum. They are an area of high alpine peaks with many cirque lakes. The upper tributaries of the Salmon River drain the area and wild Chinook salmon and steelhead still spawn here. The rivers are also home to endangered bull trout. Recently wolves have recolonized the area. There are bighorn sheep, elk, black bear, moose, mountain goat, wolverine, and other wildlife that utilize the area. The proposed national monument would be approximately 570,000 acres. Here’s some great photos to give you an idea of what the area looks like.

The BWC has been the center of controversy and efforts to protect them for decades. Idaho’s 4-time governor Cecil Andrus was first elected governor partly because he took a strong stand against a huge molybdenum mine proposed for the heart of the White Clouds (Castle Peak) back in the late 1960s.

Part of the range’s western slopes is now in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), but many want to see much of the area designated as wilderness. It is the largest (or one of the largest depending of how you draw the boundaries) unprotected roadless areas on Forest Service lands in the lower 48 states.

Republican Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho tried for ten years to gain wilderness designation for the BWC area. http://simpson.house.gov/ciedra/highlights.htm  However, opposition from his own party thwarted his efforts. His proposal would have established 337,775 acres of new wilderness. There was legislative language in Simpson’s BWC bill that allowed grazing permit buyout. I hope that will be part of any national monument. Permit buyouts would go a long way towards helping recovery of many endangered species that are found in the area. The BWC are home to listed Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout, wolverine, and other ESA species like the wolf and sage grouse. The Big Lost River whitefish (pdf) is another species that is proposed for listing under the ESA. It is found in streams that flow from the proposed national monument as well. If I recall, there was language that extended the buy-out provision to allotments that were outside of the wilderness boundaries of the Simpson proposal encompassing more than a million acres.

Even if this wasn’t in the proposal, it would be a good idea to include that provision to a larger area beyond the monument boundaries if possible. For instance adjacent portions of the Copper Basin-Pioneer Mountains just south of the BWC as well as within the Sawtooth NRA are both areas of conflict between endangered species and livestock grazing. The Pioneer Mountains are the site of a new conservation effort by Wyss Foundation and others, and the opportunity of removing livestock might be welcomed.

Since the BWC and Sawtooth NRA lies just south of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness complex and could provide a protected corridor to that complex, and the Pioneer Mountains lie south of the BWC, the long term potential is to create a very large connected protected area, especially if at some point the Pioneer Mountains were also given some special status as a national monument (hint hint). https://www.idahoconservation.org/issues/land/wilderness/pioneer-mountains/pioneer-mountains  Recently various groups including the Idaho Conservation League and Wilderness Society have championed National Monument status for the area with a major wilderness area designation overlay. http://www.boulderwhiteclouds.org/ The new national monument proposal is considerably larger than the area included in Simpson’s legislation. It also includes lands that are not roadless.

Owyhee Canyonlands. Oregon  The Owyhee Canyonlands have been proposed as national park or monument in the past. It is the largest continuous area in the lower 48 states without a paved road, and the greatest conservation opportunity left in the lower 48 states. A portion of the Idaho side of the Owyhee country, some 517,000 acres, was protected as federal wilderness in 2009. However, on the Oregon side there is another 2.1 million acres (about the size of Yellowstone NP) that could potentially be designated wilderness or national monument. When the existing Idaho designated wilderness is added to the proposed Oregon wildlands (and a small amount of northern Nevada), the combined area would become one of the largest wilderness complexes in the lower 48 states.

The BLM manages 17 Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in the Oregon portion of the Owyhee Canyonlands area, but is only recommending 9 of them for wilderness. The Oregon Sierra Club has a good brochure with a map outlining the major WSA and proposed wilderness in the area.

The Owyhee Canyonlands are home to the world’s largest herd of California bighorn sheep as well as pronghorn antelope, Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, seven species of bats, sage-grouse and songbirds, redband trout, longnose snakes, and pygmy rabbits. Innumerable archaeological and historical sites are hidden in its canyons. A number of these species are proposed for listing under the ESA including pygmy rabbit, sage grouse, and redband trout. Given that livestock grazing is a major factor in the decline of all of these species, a buyout provision for this area would also be welcomed.

This corner of southeast Oregon’s greatest value may be its remoteness and its sense of wildness. Most people explore the area by floating the river, but there are an increasing number of people hiking some of the major tributary canyons like Leslie Gulch and West Fork of the Little Owyhee. Other areas like Jordan Craters are good examples of volcanic geological structures. The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) has been leading the charge to get the Owyhee area protected.

Cascade Siskiyou Expansion. Oregon   The current 62,000 acre Cascade Siskiyou National Monument (CSNM) was created by President Bill Clinton in 2000. It was one of his leaving office, national monument presents to the American people, and now many feel the borders should be expanded. This is low hanging fruit because there is a lot of local support for the monument now that it is actually in place.

The monument has been internally expanded by 10,000 acres by acquisition of private inholdings led by the Conservation Fund and transferred to the BLM. The boundaries are not yet adequate. There is strong support for expansion both in the northwest area to Grizzly Peak and to the northeast to take in the Jenny Creek and other areas. Expansion south into California is also a possibility. Senator Ron Wyden recognizes this and has proposed a small addition (around 2000 acres) to the national monument, but most feel it doesn’t come close to protecting the area’s rich biological heritage. Wyden’s bill does include 20 miles of Jenny Creek as Wild and Scenic, plus has a provision for Grizzly Peak backcountry area as well as protection for the Pacific Crest Trail corridor among other conservation benefits, but does not go far enough in expanding the total boundaries of the area. Governor John Kitzhaber has also called for monument expansion.

Most of the expansion discussion focuses on the Oregon side, but there is also significant biological value on the California side of the border that could be part of any monument expansion (The current director of the California Dept of Wildlife is on board with expansion into that state).


The Mojave Trails and Sand-to-Snow National Monument Proposals. California   The Mojave Trails National Monument proposal would protect almost a million acres of the California Desert and form a biological connection between the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Monument, thus greatly amplifying the ecological value of all three areas. Many of these lands were once railroad land grant sections that were later purchased by the Wildlands Conservancy and donated to the federal government for protection.

Among the areas and national treasures that would be protected are the Bigelow Cholla Garden Wilderness — California’s largest cactus garden; Kelso Dunes Wilderness; Pisgah Lava Flow — the most researched area in North America for effects of volcanism on evolution; Amboy Crater — a National Natural Landmark; Sleeping Beauty Valley — the last intact valley representing the West Mojave plant associations; Marble Mountains Fossil Beds — site of 550 million‐year-old fossils of trilobites, which were among the first animals on earth with eyes and a skeleton as well as critical wildlife habitat for desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and many other species.

The smaller Sand to Snow National Monument proposal would protect 134,000 acres of the Whitewater River drainage on the southern slope of the San Bernardino Mountains and lands connecting to Joshua Tree National Monument north of Palm Springs. The proposal includes diverse vegetation that ranges from desert shrub to ponderosa pine forests at 9,000 feet. The proposal includes several large BLM Areas of Critical Biological Concern (ACECs). including the Big Morango Canyon ACEC and the Whitewater Canyon ACEC—both important birding areas due the presence of year round water and significant ecosystem diversity. The Pacific Crest Trail also traverses this area. It also protects lands purchased by the Wildlands Conservancy including the 26,000 plus acre Pioneertown Mountains Preserve and donated to the federal government.

Both areas were included in 2009 legislation introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein and was reintroduced in 2011. Among other things, the bill clarifies where solar projects can be done on federal lands in the California desert to avoid conflicts with conservation efforts.   A grazing permit buyout would be welcomed in any monument designation.   Here’s a link to a map of the proposal. http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=b60bcf4e-f659-a3fe-640a-6cdea1e4429b   http://www.californiadesert.org/places/mojave_trails_national_monument   Here’s a link to the Sands to Snow National Monument proposal. http://www.wildlandsconservancy.org/pdf/Sand_to_Snow_NM_Proposal_Jan_2010.pdf

Sonoran Desert additions. Arizona   There two proposed National Conservation Areas (NCA) proposed for the Sonoran Desert west of Phoenix—the Belmont Harquahala NCA and the Gila Bend NCA. Both would include existing wilderness areas, and provide for coordinated management. The proposed Gila Bend NCA lies just west of the existing Sonoran Desert National Monument, with all three areas making up a huge concentration of protected landscapes. Within these conservation areas, are a number additions to existing wilderness or new proposed wilderness areas including the Belmont Mountains Wilderness, Gila Bend Wilderness, among others. It includes some of the most pristine and remote representative of the Sonoran Desert.

Legislation to protect these areas has been introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva. Here’s a link to Rep. Grijalva’s legislation http://www.azwild.org/resources/SDHAct_billintro.php The roughly 954,600 acres of public lands encompassed by the bill are west of the White Tank Mountains, and are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). There are no private lands or land exchanges included in the legislation. The bill calls for a mixture of wilderness, national conservation areas (NCA), and special management area designations to be created on the BLM lands.

Supporters include the military, like Luke Air Force Base which sees the designation of NCAs as protecting the open space they require for flight training as well as helping to manage growth in the Gila Bend area.

A report from the Tucson-based Sonoran Institute and the Arizona Wilderness Coalition shows long-term, no-cost benefits of legislated conservation measures to support Arizona’s military operations from Luke Air Force Base, MCAS Yuma, the Western Army Aviation Training Site in Marana, Davis-Monthan Air Force and the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson—all of which use the Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMG) to train their personnel in flight or land-based combat maneuvers. The legislation could result in the permanent protection of 80% of Maricopa County federal lands under military training routes (MTRs)—more than 650 square miles of additional protective designations—and nearly doubling the amount that is protected today. Like all lands with existing grazing allotments, a grazing buyout provision would be welcomed.   http://www.sonoranheritage.org/our_campaign/why_conservation

Vermillion Basin, Colorado. The Vermillion Basin, located in northwest Colorado, is sometimes billed as Colorado’s loneliest corner. A rugged and wild landscape containing sweeping sagebrush basins, ancient petroglyph-filled canyons, and whitewater rivers, the basin is a critical migration corridor and winter ground for big game species such as elk, mule deer and pronghorn, in addition to being vital sage grouse habitat.

This unique high desert basin, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, was closed to oil and gas development in 2010 by the BLM’s Little Snake Resource Plan. An analysis by the Wilderness Society found that Vermillion Basin contains less than 5% of the technically recoverable natural gas in the Little Snake Resource Area and just over 1% of the oil. Further, the lands in Vermillion Basin Proposed Wilderness Area contains only enough technically recoverable natural gas to supply U.S. energy needs for about 10 days, and less than 20 minutes’ worth of oil.

A coalition of citizen organizations has proposed wilderness designation for 85,000 acres of roadless lands in the region. The Vermillion Basin is part of a larger complex that could provide substantial conservation value. Nearby is the 200,000 acre Dinosaur National Park, plus Flaming Gorge NRA, and Browns Hole NWR. Here is a  nice story in Sunset Magazine.

Valles Caldera, New Mexico The 89,000-acre Valles Caldera northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of the largest calderas in the world and is an excellent example of a caldera advanced in history but still retaining its essential structures. The area is studded with eruptive domes and features 11,254-foot Redondo Peak. It is important habitat for a wide diversity of native wildlife. Moreover, its spectacular scenery and diverse landscapes give it enormous recreational potential.

Now a national preserve administered by the U.S. Forest Service, there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the current management. NPS Director Jarvis is very supportive of transferring the area to the NPS as a preserve. A recent poll conducted this past January showed strong public support for NPS management. The poll, conducted Jan. 2-12, shows that New Mexico voters support NPS management by a wide margin, 64 percent to 13 percent. Sportsmen approve this approach by an even wider margin, 69 percent to 9 percent, the poll shows.

Several attempts to get the area transferred to NPS management including legislation originally supported by former Senator Jeff Bingham. In 2009, Senator Bingaman introduced an excellent bill for Park Service management into the US Senate. His bill passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee which he chaired and awaited action by the full Senate, which was nearly paralyzed by partisan wrangling. At the end of the Congressional session in December 2010, the Valles Caldera bill was included in a big Omnibus Public Lands bill which came up for a vote in the last hours of the “lame duck” session. The bill never passed before congress adjourned. In the 112th Congress, Senator Bingaman again introduced the same bill but because of partisan politics on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the bill never passed out of committee. Nor did the 60 other bills related to public lands all across the country. The current Senators Heinrich and Udall introduced S. 285 this past March. It carries on Senator Bingham’s goal of transferring the preserve to NPS management.

A 2011 study by Harbinger Associates economists concluded that Park Service management of the Valles Caldera would bring greater economic benefits to the regional economy than other management. They conclude that National Park Service presence would generate over 202 local jobs, $8 million in private sector wages and more than $11 million in local economic activity every year. The study also projects $1 million more in sales in gateway communities: Santa Fe, Jemez Pueblo, Jemez Springs, Cuba, Española and Los Alamos. My New Mexico contacts emphasized that the only way they would support national monument status is if it were placed under the NPS as a national preserve. They are fighting to keep it from the U.S. Forest Service, and they support all the provisions in S. 285. For more on the proposal and area see http://www.caldera-action.org/        

Greater Hart-Sheldon, Nevada and Oregon The Greater Hart-Sheldon Wildlands is a vast, remote land of scenic sagebrush-dominated landscapes. Perhaps the most biologically important and magnificent portion is the area from Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, south-southeast to the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, just across the border in Nevada, then northeast to the Catlow Rim, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Steens Mountain National Conservation Area and the Alvord Desert. Most of this area is already managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but with private inholdings. Little-known places, such as spectacular Lone Mountain with its rock pinnacles, natural bridges, and bighorn sheep population, are included in this proposal, which could encompass 3 million acres or more.

This area has been less developed politically than the Owyhee Canyonlands, but like the Owhyee Canyonlands this offers a chance to create a significant wildlands complex that would join existing protected areas like the Black Rock High Rock NCA complex to the south with Steens Mountain CMPA and Malheur NWR to the east. Depending on where you drew the boundaries, you would encompass a significant number of BLM WSAs and conservationist identified WSA. Both Sheldon NWR and Hart Mountain are livestock free and the largest livestock free regions in the Great Basin, as such have great scientific value as recovery from past grazing is studied and documented. They are important for pronghorn which migrate between Hart Mountain and Sheldon as well as sage grouse, hosting some of the largest populations in the region. Bighorn sheep are found at Hart Mountain as well as the Catlow Rim area. The area also hosts rare fish like the Sheldon Tui chub, and redband trout. Columbia spotted frog, another candidate for listing are found here. In 1999 the Oregon Natural Desert Association and other conservation groups submitted a proposal for a 2 million acre Area of Critical Environmental Concern designation that covered much of this same area. http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/lakeview/plans/files/Pronghorn_ACEC.pdf  ONDA is still advocating for a large 3 million acre protected area that would join Hart and Sheldon Refuges with additional BLM lands in what they are calling the Greater Hart Sheldon Wildlands. Here’ s a map. http://onda.org/publications/downloadable-maps/hart-sheldon-landscape

Sisiyou Wild Rivers, Oregon The Siskiyou Wild Rivers area is located in the southwest corner of Oregon and northwest California. In total more than a million acres of Forest Service and BLM lands encompass one of the highest concentrations of free-flowing rivers left in the US. More than 130 inches of precipitation nourished some of the most diverse and intact forest in America with 32 conifer species reported for the area. The Siskiyou Wild River proposal was once near the top of candidate areas for national monument status and for good reason. It is one of the most biologically rich areas in the United States with over 1800 species recorded of which more than a hundred species are found nowhere else in the country. For this reason the World Conservation Union has designated the Siskiyous as an Area for Global Botanical Significant. But the area also supports a diverse wildlife assemblage including northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, northern goshawk, bald eagle, red tree vole, Pacific fisher, and one of the most diverse populations of salamanders in the US.

It is the largest roadless lands complex on the West Coast south of Olympic National Park and largest unprotected area between Canada and Mexico. The heart of the region is the existing 179,850 acre Klamlopsis Wilderness, along with smaller wilderness areas like the Copper Salmon, Wild Rogue, Grassy Knob, but far more roadless lands remain to be designated.

Located on Oregon’s southwest coast just north of the Redwood State and National Parks, the Siskiyou Wild Rivers is host to Oregon’s only redwood stands, plus some of the most intact salmon streams on the West Coast outside of Alaska, including the Chetco, North Fork of the Smith, Illinois, Rogue, Elk and others. There are 22 candidate free-flowing rivers and streams proposed for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act—the highest concentration on any national forest in the lower 48 states. These rivers support coho, fall Chinook, winter steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, and Pacific Lamprey.

There has been some effort to expand wilderness protection for the area. In 2011, several  Oregon Congressional members introduced legislation to expand the Wild Rogue Wilderness by 60,000 acres, while Senator Wyden and Merkley introduced companion legislation. However, this is a fraction of the potential wildlands that could be protected in the area. Oregon Wild and KS Wild among other groups are calling for at least 550,000 acres of new wilderness and more than 450 miles of new Wild and Scenic River designation.

Here’s a map showing the area and proposal.

Three threats to the area include logging of old growth forests, growing ATV use, and mining. Since 2001 more than 880 mining claims have been filed in the area. http://www.oregonwild.org/about/press-room/reports-and-fact-sheets/Siskiyou_Wild_Rivers_Fact_Sheet.pdf

Gold Butte, Nevada Gold Butte is the name of a large area of desertlands managed by the BLM that lies east of Las Vegas between the Grand Canyon/Parashant National Monument, Arizona, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, just south of the City of Mesquite. Thus protection would increase the ecological value of all these lands by making a larger protected complex. Harry Reid introduced legislation in 2013 to protect the area.  Ironically, part of it is the area where rancher Cliven Bundy has been grazing his cattle in trespass for 20 years. This portion is less scenic and has been beaten out by the cows.

Gold Butte represents a broad landscape of rugged terrain with an extensive system of braided shallow washes. These washes contain “caliche caves” often used as burrows by desert tortoise, burrowing owls, and heat tolerant reptiles. Rocky outcrops are home to Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Lion, and Golden Eagle nest sites. Botanically Gold Butte is a transition zone between the Great Basin, Sonoran and Mojave deserts. You find such typical desert vegetation as Joshua trees and creosote bush but at the highest elevations is the most southern occurrence of Douglas fir forest in Nevada, along with ponderosa pine. In 1998 the BLM recognized the unique features of the Gold Butte area by creating seven Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The larger ACECs include Gold Butte, Part A 186,909 acres for critical desert tortoise Gold Butte, Part B 119,097 acres for cultural resources, scenic, wildlife habitat, and sensitive species Gold Butte, Part C (Virgin Mountains) 38,431 acres for wildlife habitat, scenic and botanical resources.

Harry Reid’s legislation would protect 348,515 acres of land between the Virgin River and Colorado River in Nevada National Conservation Area to be administered by the BLM and the NPS. Within the conservation area, the bill sets aside 129,500 acres that would be designated as federally protected wilderness. Additionally, 92,000 acres would be designated as wilderness within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Here is the text of Harry Reid’s legislation

Hidden Gems, Colorado The Hidden Gems are proposed wilderness areas primarily on the White River National Forest in Colorado. Legislation has been introduced by Senator Mark Udall and is companion legislation to a bill submitted by Congressman Jared Polis. The legislation would authorize 235,773 of designated wilderness including 12 new areas and 17 additions to existing wilderness areas. The legislation largely follows a well vetted citizen proposal which enjoys strong local support, including many Central Colorado businesses, for instance the Vail Corporation  http://www.whiteriverwild.org/   See the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign on Facebook

Browns Canyon, Colorado  Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River near Salida and Buena Vista Colorado is a popular area for whitewater rafting and kayaking. It has granite pillars and other rock formations. Located between 7,000-10,000 feet, Browns Canyon is cloaked with forests of aspen, ponderosa pine and juniper. The usual compliment of large mammals is found here including black bear, cougar, elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. It has been proposed as both a wilderness area and national monument demonstrating strong public support for protecting this area.

Senator Mark Udall introduced legislation to create a 22,000 acre national monument which would include a 10,500 acre wilderness area. Udall’s legislation, like most dealing with wilderness, grandfather’s in grazing. However, I believe any monument designation should include options for voluntary permit buyout with permanent retirement. Friends of Browns Canyon has a long list of supporters and other background. You can find it here http://brownscanyon.org/ Link to Udall’s legislation.

Big Bend Marine Reserve, Florida The Big Bend of Florida’s Gulf Coast is one of the most pristine and least developed in the state. Stretching from Florida’s panhandle, it includes the area around Apalachee Bay, an arm of the Gulf of Mexico. This is the remotest of the state’s coastlines, featuring long stretches of unspoiled shoreline, marsh expanses, and sea islands. The Big Bend also has the most stable population of bay scallops in the state and the most intact seagrass beds. These seagrass beds serve as vitally important nurseries for fish, shrimp, crabs and a host of other marine species. A portion of the area is incorporated as part of the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve which spans than 945,000 acres.

The aquatic preserve is the largest and possibly the most pristine in the state. However, there is reason to believe an expanded marine national monument status would be welcomed due to the high marine fisheries and wildlife values in the area, and the long term threat of oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico. Spring fed rivers provide winter sanctuary for manatees, and miles of wild coastline.

Most of the land in the Big Bend area is in public ownership, including Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge, two state parks–Econfina River and Waccasassa Bay Preserve. Econfina River encompasses more than 3,000 acres of pine flatwoods, oak/palm hammocks, and broad expanses of marsh and tree islands. The 34,000-acre Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park offers sweeping marsh vistas and tree islands between Cedar Key and Yankeetown. Other state holdings include Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. The entire coast is part of the state’s sea kayaking trail. Here’s a link to the state aquatic reserve. http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/bigbend/

Greater Canyonlands Utah is the heart of some of Utah’s canyon country’s wildest corners. The original proposal for Canyonlands National Park was far greater than the acreage that finally was designated but there is still an opportunity to correct this deficiency.  Counting 1.8 million acres of surrounding unroaded BLM lands adjacent to it,  Greater Canyonlands remains one of the largest roadless areas left in the lower 48 states. Rivers including the Green, Colorado, San Rafael and Dirty Devil wind through this canyon fastness with hidden coves, dripping fern covered springs, and small wooded oasis along the river bottoms. Among these canyons lies ancient Indian ruins, and numerous remains from cliff dwelling cultures.

The proposed monument would link the existing Canyonlands National Park with Glen Canyon NRA, Natural Bridges NM, and lands in the higher elevations of the Manti La Sal National Forest as well as a number of the larger BLM roadless lands surrounding the existing park. The area supports nearly a thousand species of plants, and many species of wildlife including black bear (at higher elevations) bighorn sheep, cougar, and mule deer.

Here’s a map of the proposal. http://suwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/GreaterCanyonlands_Map.pdf

Here’s a fact sheet on the area. http://suwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Canyonlands_4pager_MediumRes_8.8.12_.pdf

The area is under threat from tar sands, oil and gas, and potash development as well as the continual threat posed by expanded ORV use. A greater threat may come from Utah Governor Gary Herbert who is seeking to have thousands of miles of dirt tracks and old horse trails designated as official roads. The suit if successful would fragment much of this landscape, as well as the rest of southern Utah.

Organizations working to establish a new national monument include http://greatercanyonlands.org/ and SUWA http://suwa.org/issues/protecting-greater-canyonlands/


  1. Joseph C. Allen Avatar
    Joseph C. Allen

    Terrific post George. I am sure we can add a few more and make wilderness areas out of many more (if we can find the will)…Ed Abbey said:

    “But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us — if only we were worthy of it.”

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      How beautifully said.

  2. Helen McGinnis Avatar
    Helen McGinnis

    Here’s another for the East, not far from where I live in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia – http://www.birthplaceofrivers.org/

    1. Zach Avatar

      The beauty of Western PA and WV unfortunately always goes unnoticed.

    2. The Wilderness Guy Avatar
      The Wilderness Guy

      There needs to be a push to preserve larger wilderness areas in the East, especially large tracts of forest lands. It becomes more and more important as time goes on that these areas need protected from concrete, sprawl and more subdivisions. You look at satellite imagery from florida two decades ago compared to now, and vast chunks of forests were converted to concrete. All contributing to adding a chunk to global emissions. How does replacing forests with concrete do this country any good long term, especialy when many of these mall lots only have it seems a 20 year shelf life, before they are left in decay. It’s maddening.

      Protecting more desert scrub in the ho-hum dry waterless sagebrush country is taking the easy way out. Protecting forests in West Viriginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Maine is more important.

  3. Jon Way Avatar

    Great ideas George and I am so happy you have Maine Woods National Park #1 on your list. That is a no brainer given that Roxanne Quimby is willing to give her land away… Yes, her private land that northern Mainers don’t want her to donate to the federal gov’t for a park. A NM would be a great start to the area and only one person (Obama) needs to sign off to make it happen!

  4. John Glowa Avatar
    John Glowa

    I echo Jon Way’s sentiments. Great to see Maine listed here. The “working” forest is actually some 15 million acres with very few human residents-within a day’s drive of NYC. Years of backwards thinking, small minded politicians have driven the former mill towns of Millinocket and East Millinocket to the brink of extinction. Local opposition to a park/reserve is rapidly crumbling as Maine’s forest products industry in the region implodes and as forward thinking citizens realize that recreation/tourism is going to be the primary economic driver for the region.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Me too! 🙂 I hope with all of my heart that this area becomes protected.

  5. Nancy Avatar

    “The Front is adjacent to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and part of the Glacier-Bob Marshall Ecosystem and part of the Crown of the Continent and Yellowstone to Yukon proposals”

    Spent quite a few springs, working in the “Bob” above Gibson reservoir. Incredibly wild and beautiful country, still untouched by mankind 🙂

  6. Brian Ertz Avatar
    Brian Ertz

    The Boulder-White Clouds are indeed being considered for National Monument designation. Much of that effort has taken place behind closed doors, negotiated with menacing interests the details of which being withheld from the public – much as CIEDRA was engineered. Why ?

    I would very much like to abstain from this slide into cynicism that I find myself on, I am after all an absolute proponent of the Antiquities Act. But it seems to me that the support drummed up for so many proposals as of late is little more than that – a generalized support for the Antiquities Act – as the public, and even interested parties, are left to hope please that National Monument designations will effectuate meaningful protections that reach the landscape and wildlife.

    How will ORV use be changed by a monument ? What objects will be identified ? Who will manage – BLM or FS ? Which district/station ? Knowing a little bit about the management philosophies of the managers in the area (and their relative dispositions as they relate to exercise of agency deference in management decisions), I feel as though these are pertinent questions that will have tangible consequences, particularly should such a designation overlap (and potentially disturb) the SNRA’s existing protections.

    The ultimately question is: How will a NM designation promote increased protections for the lands and wildlife within such a designation ? We don’t know if, let alone how, net benefits will be achieved. The natural question that follows: could the NM designation mechanism do little more than effectuate increased national prominence for the area – i.e. increased recreational pressure – and what accompanying appropriations will be assured to ensure that such impact is properly managed such as to mitigate consequence to the land and wildlife ?

  7. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    Great list but unfortunately Obama has shown little interest in the environment so I don’t see any of these being protected as National Monuments. Considering our dysfunctional Congress and Obamas inability to lead, I doubt many of these areas will be designated as wilderness either. Clinton at least began the process to resolve the spotted owl issue and designate a few national monuments.

  8. bob mitchell Avatar
    bob mitchell

    re: Cascade Siskiyou Expansion, and statement ”This is low hanging fruit because there is a lot of local support for the monument now that it is actually in place”—in fact there is almost ZERO local support, some confusion there…

    1. alf Avatar

      Sadly, that doesn’t surprise me at all — the “State of Jefferson”, you know

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    To all interested,

    The Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico has been the location of a semi-private “experiment” in conservation management.

    The Valles Caldera Preservation Act, signed into law in the year 2000, told the Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to buy about 95,000 acres of the Baca ranch. It is a special unit of the Santa Fe National Forest. By unique, it is supposed to be self-supporting. So grazing, logging, fees for recreation use, and donations are used to make it run. It is a Republican idea of how to manage conservation areas for the (public?) benefit. It was hoped it would become a model for America.

    The area has to become self-supporting or it will be automatically abolished by 2020, according to the law. Achievement seems doubtful without major degrading exploitation. A recent study indicates that making it part of the National Park System would not make it self supporting, but would generate much more local revenue in total than current management.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      So in layman’s terms Ralph, how is this semi-private “experiment” in conservation management doing?

  10. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    I love the proposed marine national monument for Florida too. 🙂

  11. JB Avatar

    So few east of the Mississippi? We need to do a better job of protecting migratory corridors for birds traveling through the eastern half of the US.

  12. Alden Moffatt Avatar

    National monuments don’t need local support. That’s a myth created by miners, loggers, water extractors. What they need is the President’s signature. National monuments are set aside for the benefit of the whole world, including plants and wildlife. They are not eye candy or economic stimulus. They are a refuge away from the works of human-kind. Some people would have us believe that monuments have to be a part of the local chamber of commerce. What a bunch of crap.
    Certain types of landscapes have been entirely ignored by the national park system because they require setting aside resources valued by people for constructing things. Mostly national parks are desolate landscapes where there is little economic value. Some people think national parks are just their playground. Rocks are just fine for that. But some wild things are taking a big dive because of the “it’s all about ME” attitude toward national set asides.
    Life begets life. If all we do is undo the fabric of life, then we will all eventually be sitting on a rock in a desert. Might be a pretty rock, but there won’t be a thing to eat.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      They are not eye candy or economic stimulus. They are a refuge away from the works of human-kind. Some people would have us believe that monuments have to be a part of the local chamber of commerce. What a bunch of crap.

      Thank you!

    2. Steven T. Corneliussen Avatar

      “National monuments don’t need local support”? “That’s a myth”?

      I can’t speak for other cases, but I was the person in Virginia who first publicly advocated the use of the Antiquities Act to decide the fate of post-Army Fort Monroe, and my observation here is that those are oversimplifications.

      The Pentagon announced in 2005 that the Army would leave Fort Monroe in 2011. That led to a political scramble concerning this 570-acre sand spit, a flat Gibraltar near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It contains a moated stone fortress built before the Civil War. An earlier fortification there had seen the arrival of the first captive Africans en route to Jamestown in 1619. Events from 1861 that Adam Goodheart detailed in his New York Times article “How Slavery Really Ended in America” were once called “the greatest moment in American history” by the Civil War historian Edward Ayers. Henry Louis Gates recently posted an essay at The Root showing the first-level historical importance of Fort Monroe.

      In the case of Fort Monroe National Monument, the 2011 designation from the president stemmed from a combination of overdevelopment-obsessed politicians, the general influence of the development industry, and the parochialism of the city of Hampton. But there’s a problem: they split the national monument bizarrely on the bayfront side of Fort Monroe, sacrificing sense of place to prospective condo development. Now the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot and others are calling for unifying the split national monument to save Fort Monroe from being “degraded” and “squandered.”

      Nothing at all would have happened without political influence extended from within Virginia. That’s a version of local support. But an additionally important point is that the wrong thing happened. There was strong local support for a sensible national monument on the bayfront side of Fort Monroe, but it got steamrolled by the overdevelopment obsession.

      Was the president bamboozled or recruited? I don’t know. I just know I agree with the National Parks Conservation Association concerning the planned sense-of-place-destroying overdevelopment in the middle of land that is nationally stewarded at either end: “We can’t let this happen.”

      But we are letting it happen. And the national media are oblivious.

      And what the commenter says oversimplifies politics that can be, and in this case were and are, quite messy.

      More at http://www.fortmonroenationalpark.org/ and also at a related site: http://fortmonroecitizens.org/

      Steven T. Corneliussen

      1. alden moffatt Avatar
        alden moffatt

        That just demonstrates how this president has been hog tied by having excessive conversations about what could be done quite simply with the stroke of a pen. When it comes to preserving a history, an antique, a valley with intact honey bee hives or a hideout for rare plants and wildlife, developers really don’t need to have a say in what happens. Really!

  13. Nicholas Morrell Avatar
    Nicholas Morrell

    Set aside ALL of the Maine North Woods. 1-2 million acres is a small chunk of the forest, and RESTORE is only calling for 3.2 million, an area less than a third of the size of the woods, which covers 10.5 million acres. By setting aside 10 million acres , you are protecting an area bigger than Denali and Death Valley NPs COMBINED. It would be, by far, the biggest protected area in the lower 48, only Adirondack State Park in New York comes close, at 6.1 million acres, and the Maine Woods national monument would be more than 1.5 times bigger. the reason why it should be federally protected can be summed up in two words: Paul LePage. he tried to open the Woods to large scale development, at least 3 million acres would have been affected. that’s the risk when an area is , unprotected or protected locally or at the state level, but not the federal. Bozos like LePage or Scott Walker can ruin an area by passing legislation to open up state areas to development, they cant do that to federal areas. and virtually all the Woods is completely unprotected, only 4% of the state is protected at the state or federal level, setting aside most of the North Woods would raise Maine’s federal protected area from 1% to over 50%, from near the bottom, it would jump into the Top 5, in terms of area that is federally protected. a good way to get local support is to hire the residents in a Civilian Conservation Corp-type setup, and given the North Woods size, a lot of folks will be needed to put in infrastructure.

  14. Gabriel Sheridan Avatar
    Gabriel Sheridan

    Hope you include in the future the Three Great Lakes National Monument proposal. It would all be located on the two segments of the 900,000 acre Hiawatha National Forest of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It would connect three of the Great Lakes’ shorelines in one National Monument. It would be the largest National Monument in the Midwest,which is woefully without a great huge National Monument.


George Wuerthner is an ecologist and writer who has published 38 books on various topics related to environmental and natural history. He has visited over 400 designated wilderness areas and over 200 national park units.

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George Wuerthner