Calendar year 2018 ended on a low note for the National Park System in the midst of a partial Federal government shutdown. With the budget negotiations to keep the Federal government open consuming almost all of Congress’ attention in November, December, and January, that left a lot of unfinished business that Congress was unable to get to before their 115th Session ended in early January. Fortunately, the newly elected Congress began the 116th Session by immediately taking up many of the pending public lands provisions that had received Committee hearings and debates over the previous two years in the 115th Session and sent many of them to the President’s desk for signature. Here’s a recap of what you need to know:
I’ll begin with the news that Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is now Indiana Dunes National Park. On Friday February 15, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019. This is the law the prevented another government shutdown from beginning on February 16 by providing budget authority to the National Park Service (and all other Federal agencies that weren’t previously funded) through September 30, 2019. Normally, any law with the words “Appropriations Act” in the title is supposed to be limited to just providing funding – and is not supposed to be making other changes to permanent law. However, advocates for redesignating Indiana Dunes were so persistent that they managed to get their provision tucked into this must-pass legislation keeping the government open so as to ensure that it was enacted into law. Thus, congratulations to Indiana Dunes on being redesignated as the 61st “national park” of the United States (or alternatively, the 62nd depending if you count “Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts” as a “national park.”)
Most other proposed bills relating to the National Park System aren’t so lucky to be tucked into must-pass legislation. Instead, it has now become common practice that whenever a two-year session of Congress begins wrapping up, a giant “omnibus” piece of legislation is crafted to bring together a large number of public lands provisions that had been debated in Committee over the previous two years. The idea behind the “omnibus” is to include something for almost everyone in Congress, and thus ensure its passage. So it was little surprise when the “omnibus” public lands bill for the 115th Congress (2017-2018), the Natural Resources Management Act, passed the Senate earlier this week by a vote of 92-8. The House of Representatives is almost certain to pass this legislation sometime next week. Its possible that they may even pass it without amendment, which would send the legislation directly to President Trump for his signature to be enacted into law.
Presuming that happens, here is what you need to know about how the Natural Resources Management Act will impact the National Park System.
First up, the existing World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is being broken up, creating a new addition to the National Park System. The “Valor” National Monument was always an odd creation from the moment that President George W. Bush created it in 2008 by combining the existing then-designated USS Arizona National Memorial with several other sites around Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the site of the Tule Lake Internment Camp in California, and three World War II sites in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The USS Arizona Memorial and the other sites around Pearl Harbor are redesignated as the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. The Tule Lake Unit of the Monument is redesignated as the Tule Lake National Monument, and this will effectively become the 419th Unit of the National Park System upon passage of the legislation (unless something very surprising happens between now and then). The Alaskan areas of the monument are redesignated as Aleutian Islands World War II National Monument, and they will continue to be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and so will not be part of the National Park System.
Next, the bill authorizes the establishment of two new units of the National Park System:
Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Mississippi
Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in Kentucky
Medgar and Myrlie Evers were famed civil rights activists, and this national monument will protect the home where they lived in Jackson, Mississippi from 1956 up until Medgar’s asssasination in 1963. Mill Springs Battlefield is located near the town of Nancy in south-central Kentucky. In January 1862, it was the site of the first significant Union victory during the Civil War.
Neither site will become the 420th unit of the National Park System just yet. Instead, both sites will become full-fledged national parks upon the acquisition of land for the sites by the National Park Service. In that sense, they join a pool of candidates that for that distinction that includes:
Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park – an early French settlement in Missouri that was first authorized last year (and whose authorized boundaries will be modified in this legislation in order to help move the process along);
the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial – first authorized in 1999, the memorial commission is currently hoping to complete construction on a site near the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC by May 8, 2020;
the Adams Memorial – first authorized in 2001 at the height of the popularity of David McCullough’s Pulitzer-Prize winning biography of family patriarch John Adams, the effort to memorialize the family has struggled with fundraising, but this legislation extends the authorization for the memorial until 2025 and establishes a Commission to try and jump-start these efforts;
Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site – first authorized in 2002, the National Park Service and the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Preservation Foundation were not able to agree on a selling price for the site in Dixon, Illinois, and so land acquisition won’t happen until that changes.
So, if you’re keeping track at home, it is likely that the 420th unit of the National Park System will be one of Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument, Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument, Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, or Coltsville National Historical Park – but there is always the possibility that the President could declare a brand-new national monument under the Antiquities Act even before land acquisition for any one of those authorized (or soon-to-be authorized) parks happens.
The Natural Resources Management Act,once enacted will also make a large number of name changes to the National Park System:
Camp Nelson National Monument in central Kentucky, designated just a couple months ago to preserve a training ground for African-American Union soldiers during the Civil War gets renamed as Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument;
Golden Spike National Historic Site in northern Utah, where the first trans-continental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 gets renamed Golden Spike National Historical Park, just in time for their 150th Anniversary;
Honouliuli National Monument, the Japanese prisoner of war camp that was also used for internement of Japanese-American civilians on Oahu, in Hawaii, gets renamed Honouliuli National Historic Site;
Ocmulgee National Monument, which preserves paleo-Indian archeological sites that are up to 17,000 years old, pre-Columbian American Indian mounds that are about 1,000 years old, and the historic culture of the Creek Nation in the city of Macon in central Georgia gets renamed as Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park;
Reconstruction Era National Monument in and around Beaufort, South Carolina, where the process of building a new life for recently-emancipated African-Americans began, gets renamed Reconstruction Era National Historical Park;
All of those name changes would take place immediately upon enactment.
With that, those are all the changes to the units of the National Park System in the proposed legislation as it passed the Senate. It remains possible that the House of Representatives may add a few changes of their own as they consider the legislation this week. In my next post, I will put together a summary of all the changes to the National Park System outside the those designated as official units.
This is Part I of a three-part series on changes to the National Park System in early 2019. Check out Part II and Part III.
Updated on February 18, 2019 to correct errors and clarify the order of which Parks will become the 419th and 420th Units of the National Park System.
Writing about the World War II Memorial has gotten me to thinking about what makes a national memorial a national park. According to the National Park Service, there are 30 national memorials in the U.S. National Park System. However, as with so many things in counting national parks it isn’t quite as simple as that. Under Federal Law, only Congress has the exclusive right to designate a national memorial. This means that there is no provision like an Antiquities Act for designating national memorials the way that there is for the President to designate national monuments. Moreover, similar to national monuments, not all national memorials have been assiged to the National Park Service for inclusion in the U.S. National Park System – in fact with there being 64 national memorials that I have been able to identify, the National Park Service is only directly responsible for around half of them.
NPS National Memorials in Washington, DC
Let’s take a closer look at national memorials by starting with the 12 national memorials listed by the National Park Service that are in or around the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.:
There are also two more memorials in the above category that are planned for future construction. The Eisenhower Memorial(*) has recently received final design approval, and is hoping to complete construction in the next few years. The Adams Memorial(*), a tribute to the remarkable family that produced the second and sixth Presidents of the United States, is still in the design and fundraising stages.
So overall, this first set of memorials are dedicated either to “great Americans” – primarily former Presidents of the United States, or else to those who served, and in many cases, gave their lives, in one of the major wars of the 20th Century.
However, there is still the small matter of those asterisks above. What becomes a little tricky here is that five of these twelve memorials (as well as the two under development) have actually not been specifically designated as national memorials by Congress – as national memorial is a rather specific legal honor and title that can only be conferred by Congress. However, each of those memorials is of a sufficent size and distinction that the National Park Service has determined that each of them should count separately as individual national parks in the National Park System. As such, in listing all of the different units in the National Park System, the National Park Service goes ahead and lists all of the above as national memorials.
Given that recognition, its hard to be pedantic about the the specific legal distinctions. Take for example, the case of the World War II Memorial. The fundraising drivde by the American Battle Monuments Commission to build this memorial was explicitly called the National World War II Memorial Cammpaign. The non-profit partners of the memorial calls themselves “Friends of the National World War II Memorial.” Regardless of the technical legal status, almost all Americans, including, I would imagine, almost all Members of Congress, consider it to be the National World War II Memorial. So in the interests of simplicity and clarity, I’m going to conside each of the above memorials to also be a national memorial, if for no other reason than by popular acclamation and by the de facto designation as such by the National Park Service.
So those twelve constitue the first entries on the list of national memorials. Let’s look at a few more:
In addition to these twelve, seven other national memorials in the greater Washington, DC area are included as part of other, larger units of the U.S. National Park System:
the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial is also part of Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site in downtown Washington, DC – but it is one of only two of these sseven sites without its own Passport stamp;
This second group is a bit more of a mixed bag than the first group. The Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence is straight-forward enough, and in keeping with the theme from the first group of honoring the “Founding Fathers” of the Nation. The Nation’s desire to honor the Preisdent who saved the Union is evident by there being two designations relating to Abraham Lincoln, in addition, of course, to the Lincoln Memorial itself in the first group. Four others are dedicated to specific groups of people who served, or more accurately, to specific types of service. The mixed-nature of this list is perhaps most-highlighted by the absence of the Air Force Memorial from this list, which has apparently not been formally designated a national memorial, and resides on Department of Defense land at the Pentagon, and so is outside the National Park System as well. With neither official recognition by Congress as a national memorial, nor listing by the National Park Service as a national memorial, there just was no way to include it on the list. Even though, with all due respect to the service of the many U.S. Navy Seabees over the years, it seems inconsistent to have the Seabees Memorial on this list, but not the Air Force Memorial.
Indeed, there are many other memorials in the National Park System which are also not on that list, and in some cases, it almost seems to be simply a paperwork oversight that they have not been designated as national memorials, while many similar memorials have been. For more on them, check out Sidebar#1.
NPS National Memorials Outside Washington
Outside of Washington, DC, however, the National Park System includes 18 other national memorials that are also individual national parks. All of these were designated by Congress as a national memorial in their very name, however, so their inclusion on the list is straightforward. The 18 are:
Port Chicago National Memorial – marks the site of a tragic explosion on the American Home Front in the East Bay of San Francisco during the Second World War, in which the victims were largely African-Americans;
Once again, this set of national memorials also appears to be quite the mixed bag, although some themes definitely emerge. Many of the sites are associated with the earliest days of America’s exploration and settlement – although San Diego’s Cabrillo National Monumentis notably absent from this list as it is a national monument rather than a national memorial. Several of the others, such as Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Lincoln Boyhood are on the list because they primarily rely upon reconstructions, rather than actually-preserved historic resources – or in the case of Hamilton Grange, have been moved from their original location. Three others are the site of major tragedies, with significant loss of life. Others, like Mount Rushmore, are truly memorials in the traditional sense.
For some more related facts to national memorials that count as national parks, you can again check out Sidebar #2.
There are also three other memorials that are part of larger national parks outside of the Washington, DC area:
White Cross World War I Memorial is a white cross that was erected in 1934 in California’s Mojave Desert, and is now located on private land within Mojave National Preserve in order to settle an “establishment of religion” claim against the memorial;
U.S.S. Oklahoma Memorial is also in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and is also part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. (Note: the U.S.S. Utah Memorial is also located in Pearl Harbor, but it does not appear to have been designated a national memorial by Congress. ) The U.S.S. Missouri Memorial, which is the ship that hosted the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, is also located in Pearl Harbor. Although it is not part of the National Monument, it too has its own Passport stamp.
At the risk of getting too far into the weeds, the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial was previously a stand-alone unit of the National Park System. As such, the National Park Service listed it as a national memorial, for the reasons I described above for the WorldWar II Memorial and others. In 2008, however, President George W. Bush designated it as part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and so the National Park Service now lists it as a national monument, rather than a national memorial. However, since there was clearly no intention to de-designate the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial as a national memorial, I’m going to continue to include it on this list. You can read about four other national parks that arguably could be included on this list, despite not having the word “memorial” in their name in Sidebar #3.
The Rest of the National Memorials
In addition to all of the above, four other national memorials are officially considered to be Affiliated Areas of the National Park System, along with two others that have unofficially had that status. Status as an Affiliated Area makes the site eligible for additional technical assistance on preservation from National Park Service staff, as well as for inclusion in the Passport to Your National Parks program:
In addition, the (5) AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco California and the (6) David Berger Memorial (an American-Israeli dual-citizen who was killed as a member of the Israeli Olympic Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics) in suburban Cleveland, Ohio both have been incorrectly listed as Affiliated Areas by some sources in the past. As such, both have previously been part of the Passport Program, but no longer receive official Passport stamps from Eastern National. In any event, both appear to continue to benefit from National Park Service technical assistance from Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, respectively.
Finally, the following 18 national memorials have no connection with the U.S. National Park System, but round out the complete list of national memorials:
National Civil Defense Monument – also located in Emmitsburg, Maryland;
U.S.S. Indianapolis Memorial – located in its namesake city and commemorates the last ship in the U.S. Navy to sink during the Second World War;
World War Memorial in Guam – marks the site where Japanese sodliers raped and massacared Guamanian civilians at the Fana Caves during the closing days of World War II.
There is a distinctly military theme, not surprisingly, to many of the memorials on this list. It is amazing, however, to think that Riverside, California, of all places, is tied with New York City for the most national memorials of any place in the country outside of Washington, DC. It is also interesting to note the three memorials on the above list that are dedicated to American civilians outside of public service. Albert Einstein is such a towering figure in the history of science, that a national memorial to him is completely unsurprising. The Bosque Redondo Memorial is in keeping with the list of National Park System national memorials that commemorate tragedies in our Nation’s history – although it is worth noting that this event gets a national memorial, whereas the removal of the Cherokee from the eastern United States gets the Trail of Tears of National Historic Trail commemorating the full route. Finally, the most unusual entry on this list is Robert L. Kohnstamm, whom I’m not sure many readers of this past will have previously been familiar with. For example, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry! He apparently played a role in preserving the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and in opening Mt. Hood to recreational skiing. A full article about him can be read here.
So, after this exhaustive summary of national memorials here is a summary of the results:
12 national memorials recognized by the National Park Service as stand-alone national parks in Washington, DC;
7 other national memorials in Washington, DC that are managed by the National Park Service;
18 other national memorials that are also stand-alone national parks, outside of Washington, DC;
3 other national memorials located inside the boundaries of national parks outside of Washington, DC;
6 national memorials that are either formally or informally affiliated with the National Park System;
18 national memorials that are located outside the National Park System entirely.
That makes a total of 64 national memorials!
Out of these 64, 26 of them are dedicated to wars, military victories, military service, or public service (I’m including the Astronauts Memorial and Civil Defense Memorial here.)
19 more national memorials are dedicated to U.S. Presidents (incluing four to Abraham Lincoln alone), other U.S. Founding Fathers (I’m including Federal Hall in this group ), or to Robert E. Lee.
Eight more national memorials are dedicated to the exploration and settlement of the United States.
Seven of the national memorials are dedicated to the memory of national tragedies.
Finally, four of the national memorials are dedicated to civilians primarily for civilian accomplishments in the areas of science, conservation, or civil rights.
By no means do any of the above seem to be complete lists. The closest might be the memorials to the Founding Fathers, although if Kosciuszko is on the list of national memorials, then the names of Lafayette, Rochambeau, and von Steuben are conspicuous by their absences. The list of explorers with national memorials, however, seems far too short, and almost random in its selection. While hardly anyone could object to a national memorial to the scientific achievements of Albert Einstein or the Wright Brothers, that area of achievement can only be described as under-recognized. As with many things in the National Park System – there will no doubt be more to come in the future. In the meantime, the list of 64 national memorials provides an interesting starting point for those looking to remember our Nation’s past and history, going even beyond just those sites managed by the National Park Service.
Bonus Fact: Congress has actually passed a resolution calling for the final resting of place of the RMS Titanic to be designated as an international maritime memorial to the men, women, and children who perished aboard her. Of course, the Titanic sank in international waters, so its not at all clear who would have the jurisdiction to carry this out, but it is fun to think about.