Spotlight on the Lighthouse


Sometimes, you can take even an iconic place in your area for granted. Then someone comes along and reminds you how special it is.

In this case, the iconic place is the Jupiter Lighthouse. It's been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, and who knows how many pictures have been taken of the tower at the Jupiter Inlet that has guided ships since 1860. The someone to supply the reminder is the federal government.

Many people know about the system of national parks (such as Everglades and Biscayne), the system of national forests (such as Ocala) and the system of national wildlife refuges (such as Loxahatchee and Hobe Sound). Before he left office as President Clinton's secretary of interior in 2000, however, Bruce Babbitt created the National Landscape Conservation System. Covering roughly 26 million acres of public land, it is run by the Bureau of Land Management. Conservation groups have criticized the BLM for giving up too much land too cheaply for energy exploration. This designation, said Kevin Mack of The Wilderness Society, was designed to "show a conservation ethic" at the agency.

Curiously, Congress has not officially established the National Landscape Conservation System, which includes national monuments, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers and national scenic and historic trails - almost 900 sites nationwide. That can change next month when Congress reconvenes, and the effort got a boost when President-elect Obama nominated Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar to be secretary of the Interior Department. Sen. Salazar sponsored the bill to establish the system. It didn't get through the last Congress.