(NEXSTAR) – One site to commemorate the Global War on Terror, another to help tell the story of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and one to protect the childhood home of the America’s 43rd president could all soon join the ranks of the expanding United States. National Park Service.
Currently, NPS oversees 423 parks, monuments, rivers, etc. – they are all collectively referred to as “parks” – and 27 new sites could soon be added.
Those sites include six that have been cleared to be part of the NPS but have yet to be established and 21 studies cleared by Congress in various stages of completion, according to Kathy Kupper, public affairs specialist for the NPS.
How to become a national park
An area can only become a national park by congressional legislation, Kupper explains.
The process of designating a national park—or one of the other titles used by the NPS (there are 423 parks with different name designations, but they are collectively referred to as parks)—usually begins with a special resource survey on the proposed site to determine if it meets specific criteria:
- Have natural or cultural resources of national significance
- Be suitable and feasible to be added to the system
- Require direct NPS protection rather than protection by a public body or the private sector
The Department of the Interior oversees the studies, once instructed to do so by Congress. The NPS may perform smaller studies or updates of studies without congressional approval. These are generally used to determine whether or not the area would be a good candidate for a full study.
Presidents also have limited power to add a site to the NPS.
Under the Antiquities Act of 1906 signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, presidents have the power to establish or alter national monuments on federal lands to protect their “special natural and cultural features,” according to the law. . NPS. The first natural area to be protected under the Antiquities Act was Devils Tower, which became a national monument.
The purpose of the Antiquities Act is to utilize the smallest parcel of land necessary to protect natural, cultural or scientific resources within the federal territory in question. President Joe Biden used the Antiquities Act three times so far – twice to change the boundaries of a national monument and once to restore activities on the ground.
Congress also has the power to establish national monuments by passing legislation. Many national monuments proclaimed by the President have since been expanded or their park designation changed by Congress. The Grand Canyon is an early example – it was first designated a national monument by Roosevelt in 1908 and became a national park 11 years later.
Sites that could soon join NPS
There are six sites which have been authorized to be part of the NPS, but which have not yet been created. Three of them are waiting for the acquisition of land while the others are waiting for a law on memorial works.
Among those awaiting land acquisition is the Amache site in Granada, Colorado, which was designated a National Historic Site in March 2022. Also known as the Granada Relocation Center, Amache was once an incarceration site for the World War II created to detain Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from the West Coast. NPS is now working to acquire land approved for the site.
The Global War on Terror Memorial, a memorial to be built to those “who have contributed to global counter-terrorism efforts since 9/11” – was approved by law in August 2017 but is currently awaiting the completion of a review of the Memorials Act. the Memorials Act prevents construction of memorials near the National Mall in Washington, DC and on federal lands in the National Capital Region, unless approved by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission.
The Desert Storm/Desert Shield Memorial and the Adams Memorial, approved in 2014 and 2001 respectively, are also pending review.
On May 12, Biden signed a law not only redesignating Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to become a National Historic Park, but also expand to include two South Carolina schools to be acquired by NPS.
There is also 21 studies authorized by Congress at various stages of the process. According to Kupper, this includes potential new parks and additions to the national trail system, new national heritage areas and affiliated areas.
Among these is Fort Ontario in New York, a star-shaped fort dating from the early 1840s. The site was occupied by the United States Army during World War II before serving as the only refugee camp in the country for victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Later it served as a home for World War II veterans and their families and was a state historic site since 1949.
In 2018, Congress commissioned a special study of resources on Fort Ontario. This study is still ongoing, according to NPS.
Here are the remaining sites currently being studied by the NPS under congressional authorization, along with a link to more information about the study, if available:
- Flushing remonstrance Resource special study in Flushing, New York
- Spin Resource special study in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
- Mississippi Civil Rights Sites Resource special study
- Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum Resource special study in Oswego, New York
- George W. Bush Childhood Home Resource special study in Midland, TX
- Golden Spike National Historical Park, Transcontinental Railroad (RR) in Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California
- Pike National Historic Trail Feasibility study in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana
- Finger Lakes National Heritage Area Feasibility study At New York
- Special Study on President Street Station Resources in Baltimore, Maryland
- Thurgood Marshall School (PS 103) Resource special study in Baltimore, Maryland
- James K. Polk Presidential House Resource special study in Columbia, Tennessee
- Kentucky Wildlands National Heritage Area Feasibility study in kentucky
- Ocmulgee River Corridor Resource special studybetween Macon and Hawkinsville, Georgia
- Emancipation National Historic Trail Feasibility study in Texas
- 1908 Springfield Race Riot Special Resource Study in Springfield, Illinois
- Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools Resource Special Study in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
- Selma National Historic Trail Resource Special Study in Montgomery, Alabama
- Battle of Matewan Resource special study in Matewan, West Virginia
- Thematic study on Cold War sites
- New Philadelphia Resource special study in New Philadelphia, Illinois
- Amache Special Resource Study in Colorado (The study for the aforementioned Amache site)
A study, like all of those listed above, does not guarantee that the site will become a national park – only an act of Congress can make that happen.
While becoming the newest member of the NPS can be an honorable moment, it can also be a sign of a great need to protect the site.
“Additions as a new park will generally not be recommended if some other arrangement can provide adequate resource protection, stewardship, and opportunity for public enjoyment,” says Kupper. This may include a site affiliated with the NPS but operated by other agencies under a cooperative agreement.
And even if these sites receive national park status, they could easily lose it. There are various reasons for a site to lose its NPS status, but the most common is to transfer it to another agency or the state it is in. For example, in 2004, the Oklahoma City National Memorial commemorating the deadly April 1995 bombing was banned as a park. It was transferred to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation instead and declared an NPS-affiliated area.
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