When Does a National Park Count Twice?

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This sign in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska helpfully tells you when you are walking the line between areas designated as national park and areas designated as national preserve.

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in our Counting the Parks series, for more on this topic, check out our page at: http://www.parkasaurus.com/?cat=4

In December, when four new parks were added to the national park system, it was widely reported that there were now 405 U.S. National Parks.   What most people don’t realize about this number is that it includes nine national parks that count twice.   This list of nine national parks that count twice are all parks that bear the designation of “& Preserve” at the end of their name.  Seven of them are designated “National Park & Preserve” and two of them are designated as “National Monument & Preserve.”

The reason for this compound designation comes down to land management in general, and sport hunting in specific.   National parks (and national monuments within the National Park System) are generally managed by the National Park Service with a prohibition on sport hunting.   On the other hand, the National Park Service has generally allowed sport hunting on lands designated as a national preserve.   Thus, there have been several cases where a single area has been designated as a combination of a national park for some areas and a national preserve for other areas in which recreational sport hunting will be allowed.  Here are the nine of them:

  • Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve – President Carter used the Antiquities Act to protect the Aniakchak Caldera in southeast Alaska’s Aleutian Peninsula as a national monument in 1978, and two years later the area was expanded by the addition of a national preserve in the areas surrounding the caldera in 1980.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve – President Coolidge used the Antiquties Act to set aside dormant lava fields in central Idaho.  This area was expanded by President Clinton in 2000, and then in 2002 many of these expanded areas were redesignated as a national preserve to allow for recreational hunting.
  • Denali National Park & Preserve – Mount McKinley National Park was established in central Alaska back in 1917, but the original national park did not even include the summit of Mount McKinley.  President Carter used the Aniquities Act to designate Denali National Monument in 1978.  Then in 1980, these two areas were combined, the area designated as a national park was expanded, and two small remnants of the combined area were designated as national preserve.  Today, the national preserve areas are in the far southwestern corner and far northwestern corners of the Park, far from the developed visitor infrastructure.
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve – President Carter set aside Gates of the Arctic in northern Alaska as a national monument using the Antiquities Act in 1978.  In 1980, the area was designated as a national park, except for two areas in the northeast and southwest corners of the park, which were designated as a national preserve.
  • Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve – President Coolidge used the Antiquities Act to set aside Glacier Bay in coastal southern Alaska as a national monument in 1924.  This area was later expanded by Presidents Roosevelt and Carter.  In 1980, the area was redesignated a national park, except for a small strip of land near Dry Bay in the southeastern corner of the park, which was designated a national preserve.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve – President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to Antiquities Act to proclaim the enormous sand dunes in southern Colorado at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains a national monument.  In 2000, legislation was passed redesignating the area as a national park, and vastly expanding the park to include much of the scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a national preserve.
  • Katmai National Park & Preserve – In 1918, President Wilson used the Antiquities Act to set aside a volcanic area in southeast Alaska known as “The Valley of 10,000 Smokes” as a national monument.  President Hoover would later expand this area to include the area around Brooks Falls – which is some of the best grizzily bear habitat on the planet (and is the source of many iconic photographs and videos of grizzly bears fishing for salmon.)  This area would be expanded four other times.  The last of these expansions, in 1980, redesignated the national monument as a national park, and set aside a strip of land in the northern end of the park as a national preserve.  Somewhat unuusually, not even subsitence hunting was permitted in the area designated national park, instead both subsistence hunting and recrational hunting are restricted to the area designated as a national preserve.
  • Lake Clark National Park & Preserve – This area just west of Anchorage  and Cook Inlet was also proclaimed a national monument by President Carter in 1978, and then redesignated as a national park and a national preserve  in 1980.  The national preserve consists of the western 1/3rd or so of this park.
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve – The largest protected area in the national park system was etablished in 1980 and covers most of the Wrangell Mountains in eastern Alaska, stretching down into Alaska’s panhandle, where it borders Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.  In order to preserve recreational hunting and other traditional activities, the national preserve exists as a patchwork of five separate land parcels, mostly around the edges of this park.

So there you have it, there are the nine.  Obviously, there are some common themes with these parks.   All of these combined designations date from 1980 or later.   7 of them are in Alaska – resulting from the Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act of 1980, which greatly expanded the National Park System in Alaska.    Also,, these combined designations arose not out of any kind of separation of the resources in these areas, but out of a desire to maintain separate land uses within different parts of the overall park.

Indeed, in many of the above cases, the area designated as a national preserve consists of land on the fringes of the park as a whole.  For the most part,  the area designated as national preserve does not include the overall park’s “core resources” that merited the designation.  Even in cases where the preserve designation is relatively large, such as in the case of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, the national preserve primarily functions to help preserve the overall landscape and environment of the larger area, without necessarily applying the highest-level restrictions on land-use to the whole thing.

 

The newly-expanded Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve will only be counting as one national park. Photo Credit: National Park Service

All of this is particularly interesting because in addition to creating new national parks, the Defense Authorization Act for 2015 also included a number of other national parks provisions.   One of these expanded and redesignated Oregon Caves National Monument to Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve.  Oregon Caves was originally set aside by President Taft in 1909.  Most caves are typically formed in limestone, but the Oregon Caves are somewhat unusual in having formed in marble (its worth noting that marble is formed from limestone that has been metamorphosed under heat and pressure).   With this expansion, however, this park goes from a mere 400-or-so acres surrounding the cave to well more than 4,000+ acres including the surrounding watershed.  Once again, part of the motivation is to continue to allow recreational hunting in the new parklands.  Somewhat surprisingly, however, this time Congress arguably avoided the “mistake” it made in previous legislation – Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve won’t be counting twice.  Instead, it explicitly remains a single park in the U.S. National Park System.

In this regard, it joins two other parks that appear to be “& Preserves,” but yet only count once.   Salt River Bay National Historical Park & Ecological Preserve in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve.   Neither of these areas have the clear-cut land management distinctions of the above 9 “& Preserves.”   In this respect, Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve will be unique in following this sensible approach, despite the land management distinctions.   In the meantime, although visiting all 405 (for now) national parks will be life-long bucket-list ambition for many, the list itself will remain one with plenty of idiosyncracies, thanks to the unusual situation of the nine national parks that in fact count twice.

Update: The original version of this post inadvertently listed Craters of the Moon as a National Park & Preserve, despite listing it as a monument in the previous paragraph.  In fact, it is a National Monument & Preserve.

 

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