Tag Archives: Valles Caldera National Preserve

September 2016 Stamps – Katahdin Woods, State Parks, and Many Trails

The site of Mission Dolores in Texas and associated visitor center is a new State Historic Site and has an updated stamp this month on the El Camino Real de Tejas National Historic Trail.

After some time away, I’m at least returning to blogging.  To catch up, I’ve decided to go ahead and write the monthly new stamps post for the months I missed. Here are the new stamps for the month of September 2016:

Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument | Penobscot County, ME

Natchez National Historical Park | Fort Rosalie

Nez Perce National Historical Park | Bear Paw Battlefield

Redwood National Park | Prairie Creek Redwoods SP

Redwood National Park | Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP

Rainbow Bridge National Monument |

      • Lees Ferry, AZ
      • Big Water, UT
      • Escalante, UT

California National Historic Trail | Fairway, KS

Oregon National Historic Trail | Fairway, KS

El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail | Mission Dolores State Historic Site

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail | Pismo Beach, CA

Old Spanish National Historic Trail | Arizona/Utah

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | St. Clements Island SP, MD

North Country National Scenic Trail |

      • Douglas County, WI
      • Fergus Falls, MN
      • Itasca State Park, MN

The headline of course, is President Obama’s 100th birthday present to the National Park Service – the addition of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine.  Although this park is not as expansive as earlier proposals for a comprehensive Maine North Woods National Park, it is still a landmark addition to the National Park System.  Since Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in central Kansas was added to the National Park System in 1996, there have been only a handful of new parks added primarily for their value as natural landscapes.  Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument was added in 1991, but it was really just a boundary expansion of Virgin Islands National Park, just as Castle Mountains National Monument was really just a boundary expansion for Mojave National Preserve.  A few other new parks have included small landscape parcels as part of a larger history-themed park, but really the only other truly new landscape-focused park in the last 20 years has been Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico.

Congress established Natchez National Historical Park in 1988 to encompass the historic district of Natchez, Mississippi, and to include three National Park Service-managed properties, the Melrose Plantation, the William Johnson House, and the archaeological site of Fort Rosalie.   Fort Rosalie was a French trading post, established in 1716, and was the seed that eventually grew into the present-day town of Natchez.  The original authorizing legislation required the National Park Service to first study the archaeological significance of Fort Rosalie before adding it to the park.

The Nez Perce National Historic Park includes 38 sites across the Pacific Northwest.  The Bear Paw Battlefield site in Montana is where in 1877 Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce ended his attempts to flee US troops, just 40 miles short of safety across the Canadian Border.  The new stamp replaces an earlier version and will be kept at the Blaine County Museum in nearby Chinook, Montana.

Redwood National Park is expanding its Passport locations to include its partner State Parks. Photo from 2002.

Redwood National Park operates as a mix of federal and state lands along the Pacific Coast of northernmost California.  Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park are two of the partners with this effort, and are managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.  There are now 5 cancellation locations for Redwood National Park, three for the National Park Service visitor centers in Orick, Hiouichi, and Crescent City, and two for these two California State Parks.  As an interesting historical footnote, one of these stamps was originally mis-printed as Jedediah Redwoods SP and was used for a short time before being replaced by a correctly-worded stamp.  Additionally, no stamp at all has been issued for the third California State Park in this partnerships, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  This is presumably because as near as I can tell, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park lacks a proper visitor center as a location to place the stamp.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument is only accessible by boat, deep inside Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  These stamps, as well as the new stamp for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, will go to the various visitors centers for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the adjacent Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which provide information on visiting the area.


Rainbow Bridge National Monument preserves this natural arch. Photo from National Park Service

The stamps for the Oregon National Historic Trail and the California National Historic Trail will go to the Shawnee Mission State Historic State in Fairway, Kansas.   The Shawnee were relocated out of Ohio to an area just west of what is now Kansas City in 1825.   Methodist missionaries operated the mission from the 1830’s until the time of the Civil War.

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail stamp will presumably be found at the historic Price Historical Park in the town of Prismo Beach.   Although the ranch was founded decades after the 18th-Century Anza Expedition, Anza and his companions passed through what is now called Price Canyon on the journey north to San Francisco Bay  in 1775.

The new stamp for the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail is a replacement stamp, reflecting the redesignation of the former Mission Dolores Travel Information Center just south of San Augustine, Texas to an official State Historic Site.

The new Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail stamp will be at St. Clements Island State Park.  St. Clements Island is only accessible by bout tours during the summer months.   This new stamp continues the evolution of the Potomac Heritage Trail cancellation locations from representing a linear long-distance trail to more of a partnership program, similar to a National Heritage Area.

Two of the new stamps for the North Country National Scenic Trail will be at the Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and at Itasca State Park in Park Rapids, Minnesota.  Itasca State Park is, of course, famously home to the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, making it one of the most-notable additions to the Passport Program this month. The significance of Itasca State Park has long made it one of the most-famous State Parks in the country, and now it is also part of the national Passport to Your National Parks program.  The third stamp will be at the Douglas County Forestry Department in Solon Springs, Wisconsin.

Follow these signs to adventure along the North Country National Scenic Trail.  Photo from 2006.
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May Stories Behind the Stamps: Freedom’s Frontier

Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area in Kansas (and Missouri) has received its first Passport cancellation this month. This picture is of Fort Scott National Historic Site, located within the Heritage Area. Photo courtesy NPS.gov.
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area in Kansas (and Missouri) has received its first Passport cancellation this month. This picture is of Fort Scott National Historic Site, located within the Heritage Area. Photo courtesy NPS.gov.

Eastern National has released their list of new stamps for the month of May:

    • Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument | Washington, DC
    • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | Woodlawn, VA
    • Valles Caldera National Preserve | Jemez Springs, NM
    • Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area | Lawrence, KS

The stamp for the brand new Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument simply replaces the previous stamp for its old designation as the Sewall-Belmont House Affiliated Area.  The story behind this new National Monument is well worth reading, you can check it out in this Parkasaurus post.

Valles Caldera National Preserve is also a relatively new unit of the National Park System.  Ever since it was transferred to the National Park Service by legislation in December 2014, it has been using an unofficial stamp reading “New Mexico” as the location.  The “Jemez Springs, NM” stamp is its first official stamp from Eastern National, and will presumably replace the existing stamp.

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail runs from the mouth of the Potomac in the Chesapeake Bay all the way up to Cumberland, Maryland and from there, into the Allegheny Highlands of Pennsylvania.  The newest stamp is for a National Trust for Historic Preservation property adjacent to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Woodlawn Plantation was given as a gift by George Washington in 1799 to his nephew,  Lawrence Lewis, upon his marriage to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, of all people, Eleanor Custis.  By 1799, George Washington was two years removed from the Presidency, from which he retired from in 1797. The gift was made with some intent of keeping the new family close to home, as it were.  Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, he was just a few months away from his sudden death due to some sort of upper respiratory ailment in December 1799.  Woodlawn Plantation first became a historical house museum in 1949, and it would actually become the very first property acquired and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1957.  In 1961, the property would add the Pope-Leighey House, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, that had to be relocated from nearby Falls Church, Virginia due to the construction of Interstate 66.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation now owns or operates nearly two dozen historic buildings, and partners with the administration of a half-dozen others through cooperative agreements.  Of the 20 properties owner or operated the Trust, this is the 5th to be included in the Passport Program.

Fort Scott in Kansas was decommissioned by the time of the events of "Bleeding Kansas," but the repurposed buildings were the site of several conflicts between pro- and anti- slavery forces - events commemorated by the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.
Fort Scott in Kansas was decommissioned by the time of the events of “Bleeding Kansas,” but the repurposed buildings were the site of several conflicts between pro- and anti- slavery forces – events commemorated by the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.  Photo from 2006.

The Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area includes 29 counties in eastern Kansas and 12 counties in western Missouri, and principally commemorates the events of the Bleeding Kansas years of 1854 to 1861 leading up to the Civil War.  This stamp is their first Passport cancellation, and will be located at the partnership organization’s headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas.  For more on National Heritage Areas, check out this Parkasaurus post.

The term “Bleeding Kansas” refers to the years of extensive civil conflict between pro-slavery and pro-abolition settlers spurred by the adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 and culminating in the start of the Civil War in 1861.

The history of the antebellum United States is largely a history of tensions over slavery, divided between the southern states whose economies were largely dependent on slavery, and northern states who became increasingly in favor of abolition of slavery during this time. Following independence from Great Britain, the semi-independent state of Vermont, and the just-across-the-Appalachians states of Kentucky and Tennessee were added to the Union relatively quickly, all during the Presidency of George Washington.  The fertile land of Ohio was added in March 1803, just months before the Louisiana Purchase would be completed.   That would lead to the addition of the state of Louisiana, and its valuable port of New Orleans, in the spring of 1812 – just 49 days before the US would declare war in the War of 1812.

Thus, the initial wave of expansion left the United States with 18 stars on its flag, and a rough parity of 9 southern states (counting Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware) where slavery was legal and 9 northern states where slavery had been abolished since at least 1804 (when New Jersey became the last of them to abolish slavery).  Following the War of 1812, the question of how to handle the expansion of the United States into the western territories, and in particular, how that might alter the parity between “slave” and “free” states became arguably the preoccupying political issue of the era.  Indiana and Mississippi would join the Union almost exactly a year apart in December of 1816 and 1817 respectively.  Illinois and Alabama would follow them in the Decembers of 1818 and 1819.  Then the Missouri compromise of 1820 would allow Maine to split off from the rest of Massachusetts in March 1820, followed by Missouri joining as a “slave state” in August of 1821.

The Missouri Compromise was supposed to settle this issue by extending the line of the Virginia-North Carolina, Kentucky-Tennessee, and Missouri-Arkansas Territory borders westward, and providing that future states located within the Louisiana Purchase and to south of that line would be “slave states,” and that future states north of that line would be “free states.”  This compromise more-or-less held as Arkansas was admitted in June 1836 and Michigan was added in January 1837.  So too, with the addition of Florida and Texas in March and December of 1845, and then Iowa and Wisconsin in December 1846 and May 1848.

The admission of Wisconsin came just a little less than three months after the Mexican-American had ended in February, after less than two years of fighting.  The results of that war would change the balance between “slave” and “free” states in ways that no way had anticipated.  Unbeknownst to both the treaty negotiators ending the war and also to those in Congress admitting Wisconsin to the Union, gold had been found at Sutter’s Mill in California, less than two weeks before the war had ended.  It would take several months for word of the discovery to reach the wider world, but by 1849 hundreds of thousands of “forty-niners” would be arriving in California, many along what is today marked by the National Park Service as the California National Historic Trail.   Just one year later the massive influx of people would begin raising the question of statehood for California sooner than anyone had previously imagined and would begin the process of unravelling the Missouri Compromise.

Technically, the Missouri Compromise  only applied to those lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, thus a new deal was technically required for how to handle the slavery question in the territories that had been newly conquered from Mexico.  That deal was the Compromise of 1850.  California would be admitted to the Union as a “free state.”  In addition, instead of extending the Missouri Compromise line through the rest of the lands acquired in the Mexican-American War, the newly-formed New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory would each be allowed to decide the slavery question for themselves through popular sovereignty.  This somewhat satisfied both sides as it opened the possibility of additional pro-slavery states in the new lands, but at the same time it was recognized in the north that the largely desert climate of these new states would likely be unsuitable for plantation-style agriculture.  The compromise would also settle the northern and western boundaries of Texas (which had been added five years earlier) and also prohibit the slave trade (but not slavery itself) in the District of Columbia.  In exchange for what on balance seemed like a major victory for the pro-abolition forces in the northern states, the southern states gained a truly major concession, passage of a much-stronger Fugitive Slave Act.

The Fugitive Slave Act established severe penalties for aiding an escaped slave, and imposed requirements for helping to return escaped slaves.  The Fugitive Slave Act quickly became resented in the northern states, as in their view it essentially forced northerners to become complicit in the practice of slavery itself.  Thus things simmered for four years until the question of future statehood for Kansas rose to the top of the agenda, especially as Kansas was located to the north of the Missouri Compromise line, and thus should have been a “free” state.  On the other hand, with the admission of new states from the desert lands acquired in the Mexican-American war still many years away, there were no longer any obvious pairings of future “slave” and “free” states for admission to the Union.  Thus, Senators from southern states began holding up legislation applying to the new territories, which not only would hold up their future admission to the Union, but also blocked the legal frameworks necessary for the extension westward of the future trans-continental railroad to California.

A solution to this impasse was struck in 1854 when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, effectively repealing the Missouri compromise and extending the notion of “popular sovereignty” from the former Mexican territories to the future states of Kansas Nebraska.  In exchange for this victory of southern states, the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed for construction of the trans-continental railroad to proceed.  Still, the “popular sovereignty” provisions would soon prove disastrous, creating an immediate free-for-all as pro-slavery settlers from the south and pro-abolition settlers from the north flooded into Kansas in the hopes of  altering Kansas’ final orientation as a “slave” or “free” state upon statehood.  Tensions between the two sides were palpable, and violence would regularly erupt between the two sides off and on for the next several years. Even as Minnesota and Oregon would be added to the Union as “free states” in 1858 and 1859 (in part due to Oregon electing two pro-slavery Democrats as Senators, despite being a “free” state), the “Bleeding Kansas” era would only come to an end once the secession of the first six southern states allowed the Senate to ratify Kansas as the 34th (or the 28th, depending on your perspective) state of the Union in January 1861. The Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area was established to tell the stories from the front lines of the conflict over slavery in the years leading up the Civil War.

With these additions, there are now 2,008 total active cancellations in the Passport to Your National Parks program.   Excluding the cancellations for anniversaries and special events, there 1,912 active cancellations available.

A visually stunning candlelight tour at Fort Scott National Historic Site. Photo courtesy NPS.gov.
A visually stunning candlelight tour at Fort Scott National Historic Site. Photo courtesy NPS.gov.
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A Defense Act for New National Parks

Valles Caldera fog_rocks
The Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico is one of six places that could soon be national parks. Photo Credit: Valles Caldera Trust

In the United States, we elect a new Congress every two years.   As of late, Congress has rarely been able to agree on much, which has meant that relatively few laws have been enacted, including laws relating to national parks and other public lands.   In practice, this has meant that every two years, as one Congress is about to leave office and a new Congress prepares to take office the following January, there has been a mad scramble to enact legislation relating to public lands and national parks that hasn’t been able to get voted upon during the previous two years.   That’s because once a new Congress takes office, generally speaking, any bills that have not yet become laws have to start over from square one  – the bill has to be reintroduced, the bills gets referred back to a Commitee for new hearings, and the bills once again has to be passed by the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Back in 2010, as Congress was leaving office, it passed the “Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2010” which established three new U.S. National Park Sites, along with numerous other public lands provisions.   Similar action was taken two years before that with another “catchall”, or in the words of Washington, “omnibus” law that authorized the creation of one new U.S. National Park Site, in addition to many other public lands provisions.  Two years ago, however, was the exception – no major public lands legislation made it out of the last Congress, which means there’s now a four-year backlog of public lands legislation waiting for passage.

That wait finally appears to be over, however, with the announcement on Wednesday that the Defense Authorization Act for 2015 would include a large number of public lands provisions.   The Defense Authorization Act is a law that is passed by Congress every year that sets priorities for spending by the Department of Defense, and is generally considered to be “must-pass legislation.”   This particular version of the Act will cover the governments 2015 Fiscal Year, and in addition, appears to be the vehicle for clearing some of the backlog in public lands legislation.

It should be noted that right now this is still “just a bill.”   As this blog post was being written, it had been passed by the House of Representatives, but was still awaiting passage by the Senate, and then, of course, signature by the President.   However, numerous media reports indicate that this bill seems to be very likely to be enacted.  So, with that being said, here’s a quick summary, including authorization for six new national parks:

1) Establishes the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in Rhode Island.   The new park is designated to include the existing Blackstone River State Park, the Old Slater Mill, and several other historic properties.  This park seems to be modeled on the recently-established Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in New Jersey in combing some natural features with historical resources from the Industrial Revolution.

Somewhat unusually, the legislation appears to establish this national park immediately – so this may well become the 402nd national park upon signature of the legislation by President Obama.

2) Authorizes the establishment of Coltsville National Historical Park in Hartford, Connecticut.   Coltsville would preserve historic resources associated with the company town established by Samuel Colt, the famous firearms manufacturer.

This park would not be established until the National Park Service is able to acquire the land from appropriate donors.

3) Authorizes the establishment of Harriet Tubman National Historical Park on the site of Harriet Tubman’s adult hom in Auburn, New York.

This park would not be established until the National Park Service is able to acquire the land from donors or willing sellers.

4) Authorizes the establishment of Manhattan Project National Historical Park at facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington related to the development of the first atomic bomb.

The legislation gives the National Park Service one year to work out the details with the Department of Energy for how exactly to establish the Park.

5) Transfers Valles Caldera National Preserve from management by an independent trust to the National Park Service and establishes it as a National Park.

This provision appears to take effect immediately, which means that this may be the 403rd national park upon signature of the legislation by President Obama.

6) Establishes the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in an area just north of Las Vegas, Nevada.    This area is known for outstanding Ice Age fossils, including mammoths.

The law appears to establish this as a national park right away, transferring it immediately from the Bureau of Land Management,  so this may well be the 404th national park in just a few days.

It is interesting to note, however, that this site was included in the legislation, whereas the Waco Mammoth National Monument was not.   For many years, the Waco Mammoth Site appeared to be a slam dunk for national park status, until a change in the local Congressional designation appears to have caused the effort to lose steam.   Now that Waco Mammoth has been passed over for inclusion in this legislation, its best route to national park status may be through a Presidential Proclamation under the Antiquities Act.

7) Designates Pershing Park in Washington, DC as the National World War I Memorial, and authorizes its expansion to include additional memorial elements.

Update: The National Park Service has confirmed that Blackstone River Valley NHP, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and the World War I Memorial are considered to be immediately established, thus taking the total number of national parks to 405.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated after its original posting to include the item on the National World War I Memorial, which was missed in our original reading of the law, and to also include the Update on the Park counts listed above.


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