Friday, June 8, 2012

Pinnacles National Monument

A lesson in our national lands

On March 1, 1872 a working Congress created Yellowstone National Park.  This was the world's first national park and sparked a trend that has resulted in 100 nations creating 1200 parks around the world.  In the U.S. a national park is for the "benefit and enjoyment of the people." What a wonderful idea our country had that is now a world-wide trend!

National parks can only be established by Congressional Act.  Thus, we won't be seeing another national park in our futures.  However, a national monument can be created by Presidential decree, on lands already under federal jurisdiction.  The Bureau of Land Management is actually the largest land owner in the states, so there is a lot of land that could become national monuments.

We also have national historic sites, which are semi-self-explanatory -- they are preserving a historic site.  This includes all our national battlefield sites, national cemeteries, and national memorials.  The category of memorials includes everything on the U.S. National Mall (which is itself a National Park) including the Vietnam Memorial, the Washington Monument, etc.  Also in this category (who knew?) is Theodore Roosevelt Island in between DC and Virginia. 

Then we come to national recreation areas, which were originally the areas surrounding reservoirs created by dams.  It encompasses more than that now, but national recreation areas are still related to water activities. 

National preserves are there to protect a specific natural resource.  National reserves have the same purpose, but they are actually managed by local or state authorities.  And national seashores, national lakeshores, national rivers, wild and scenic riverways, and national scenic trails are all fairly self-explanatory.

Finally there are wilderness areas -- these are meant to be left wild.  They are managed to keep their, "primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation. . . ."

And why have I just spent a huge amount of time educating you on the definitions of our national public lands?  Because I visited Pinnacles National Monument and I was curious why it was a  national monument, rather than say a national park or a reserve.   Obviously it was because establishing it as a monument was just easier.

According to the National Parks website, "Established in 1908 to preserve the incongruent and beautiful rock formations for which Pinnacles is named, the Monument originally protected only 2,060 acres. It now encompasses about 26,000 acres in the southern portion of the Gabilan Mountains, one of a series of parallel northwest-trending ridges and valleys that make up the Central Coast Range."  But I didn't really go to see the pretty rocks...I wanted to see condors.  Of course our mid-day hike wasn't super conducive to condor sighting, and alas, it was not to be.

But the rocks were very pretty!