The Wilderness Society applauded the U.S. Senate today for passage of legislation to upgrade Pinnacles National Monument to a national park. The bill, which will make Pinnacles the nation’s 59th national park, advances to President Obama for his signature.
The Pinnacles National Park Act, or H.R. 3641, will raise the cachet of Pinnacles so that more visitors can see its endangered California condors flying overhead or climb its famed volcanic spires. It was introduced last year by Rep. Sam Farr (D, CA-17) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R, CA-19). Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced an identical Pinnacles bill last year co-sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Paul Spitler, director of Wilderness policy at The Wilderness Society praised Sen. Boxer and Rep. Farr for their dedicated efforts to create a Pinnacles National Park.
“Pinnacles is a unique American landscape that will become even more popular with visitors as a national park,” Spitler said. “Republicans and Democrats may not see eye-to-eye on all issues, but they do agree that a Pinnacles National Park will help boost tourism dollars in a tough economy. It is a spectacular and unique place.”
Rep. Farr who has worked to protect Pinnacles for years, first introduced his bill in 2009.
“The Pinnacles is a special place that has long deserved National Park status,” Rep. Farr said. “Often referred to as the missing novel in our National Park’s library, this treasure will finally take its rightful place on the shelf next to Yosemite, Yellowstone and all of our other wonderful parks. Today is a great day not just for California but for all Americans, who will want to now come visit this geological and ecological wonder.”
Senator Boxer said elevating Pinnacles to a national park will help draw more tourists.
“I was proud to work with Congressman Farr to recognize Pinnacles as a National Park. Now we will attract even more Americans and visitors from around the world to enjoy this spectacular piece of California’s natural and cultural heritage,” Senator Boxer said. “The rugged splendor and unique wildlife at Pinnacles have long made this park one of California’s greatest treasures, and this bill will ensure that it gets the recognition it deserves while also boosting the area’s tourism economy.”
Pinnacles 26,000 acres are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, many with federal or state protected status. Located near Soledad in central California, Pinnacles is named for its finger-like volcanic spires and crags. But it is also home to bat-filled caves, oak savannas and chaparral hillsides with bobcats and butterflies, and canyon creeks and ponds that are home to threatened salamanders and the California red-legged frog.
The condors are one of Pinnacles’ most iconic symbols with their 10-foot wingspans. Since 2003, the monument has been part of the California Condor Recovery Program and it manages about 30 of the birds which are tagged but fly freely. In 2010, a condor chick hatched in Pinnacles, the first time in a century where the birds once thrived.
Pinnacles National Monument was originally established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Its unique geologic history dates back to the remnants of an ancient volcano.
Jerry Muenzer, a San Benito County Supervisor, said many international visitors will visit Pinnacles if it is a national park, but they may not make the drive inland from the central California coast if it remained a national monument. “The downtown association in Hollister and the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce are strong backers of Pinnacles becoming a national park,” he said.
While The Wilderness Society is pleased with the passage of this legislation, it no longer includes the provision that would have preserved nearly 3,000 acres of new wilderness. The Wilderness Society has long supported this permanent protection which would have further enhanced Pinnacles.
To learn more about Pinnacles: http://wilderness.org/article/top-place-pinnacles