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What:Congress has passed the National Defense Authorization Act, part of which outlines the most significant expansion of the U.S. National Park System in decades, including the creation of seven new national parks.
Why It Matters:National parks ranked among the top 10 domestic destinations for travelers in MMGY Global’s 2014 Portrait of American Travelers, so the opening of new parks and the expansion of others gives travel agents even more to offer clients. The park system is also anticipating increased interest from travelers as the National Park Service approaches its bicentennial in 2016, according to director Johnathan B. Jarvis. Among the new parks approved by the act is Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in Nevada and Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in New York. The latter will highlight sites important to Tubman’s time as the leader of the Underground Railroad. Expansion projects will grow nine other national parks, including Gettysburg National Military Park and Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.
Fast Facts:- The seven new national parks slated are Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in Rhode Island and Massachusetts; Coltsville National Historical Park in Connecticut; Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in New York; Manhattan Project National Historical Park in New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington; Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico; Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in Nevada; and National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- The nine Existing national parks that will be expanded are Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin; First State National Historical Park in Delaware; Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania; Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland; Hinchliffe Stadium and Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in New Jersey; Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve; San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas; Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi; and Lower East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site in New York.
- Congress has also authorized eight formal resource studies to determine whether other sites would be appropriate for future inclusion in the National Park System. The eight study areas include the Lower Mississippi Delta area of Louisiana, a region of the South with historic and strategically placed Civil War forts and a unique cultural history, as well as sites honoring the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers, who are considered by many to be the original guardians of national parks.
What They Are Saying:“This bipartisan legislation represents years of work by community members, business leaders, scientists and the National Parks Conservation Association,” 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.”
“While this legislation includes two dozen bills that protect iconic places both in our history and in our landscapes, we also recognize that it includes provisions that could harm our natural resources,” said Theresa Pierno, chief operating officer of National Parks Conservation Association. “And it is those provisions that are of concern to us, both as park advocates and as conservationists. However, the gains we make for our parks, their communities and their visitors will have lasting benefits for our nation.”