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A Volcanic Addition to the National Park System?

May 17, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - On Friday's 32nd anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption, people will rally at what now is Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to make a case for turning it into a national park.

The added prestige of park designation would mean more visitors, which boosts the local economy, and also more stable funding for conservation and upkeep, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. Sean Smith, NPCA Northwest regional director, says that's because the National Park Service is funded differently than is the Forest Service, which manages Mount St. Helens now.

"In the president's budget every year, there are specific allocations for individual parks, whereas the Forest Service has a lump sum that then gets trickled down to its individual forests and forest units."

National park designation would not mean acquiring any new federal land, Smith says, just changing the way the existing acreage is managed. Becoming a national park would mean Mount St. Helens would receive greater federal protection for wildlife habitat and air quality.

Some local residents are concerned the park designation could restrict industry in the region as well as outdoor recreation. Smith notes that there already are environmental concerns about projects proposed for neighboring lands.

"Bringing more attention to the area would bring additional scrutiny to things that are happening in and around Mount St. Helens - such as a proposed mine just to the northeast of Mount St. Helens, as well as some residential development that's proposed for the northwest corner of the Mount St. Helens area."

The rally is to begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center.

The National Parks Conservation Association turns 93 this weekend. More information is online at npca.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR