Support Grows To Rename Pinnacles National Monument As A "National Park"

There soon could be 59 "national parks" in the National Park System.

The U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week approved legislation that would rename Pinnacles National Monument to Pinnacles National Park.

The Pinnacles National Park Act, or H.R. 3641, was introduced last year by Rep. Sam Farr (D, CA-17) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham’s (R, CA-19). It was first introduced by Rep. Farr in 2009.

“Pinnacles is a rare California gem with the unique geology, cultural history, ecosystems and recreation opportunities that merit its upgrade to a national park,” Rep. Farr said. “Pinnacles can attract even more visitors who will want to explore its volcanic spires and steep canyons, witness an endangered California condor soaring overhead or enjoy vistas of central California.”

The monument’s 26,000 acres are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, and dozens have federal or state protected status. Located near Soledad in central California, Pinnacles is named for its finger-like volcanic spires and crags that are popular with rock climbers and other visitors.

National Park Service officials have in the past opposed the renaming of the monument, saying it lacks the diversity of resources to justify it being branded a "national park."

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 that are tagged but fly freely. In 2010, a condor chick hatched in Pinnacles, the first time in a century where the birds once thrived.

Jerry Muenzer, a San Benito County supervisor, said downtown Hollister and the county Chamber of Commerce are excited to support Rep. Farr’s bill because it will increase tourism revenues.

“We’re 40 miles from the coast, and we have hundreds of thousands of tourists who travel up and down the coast to Monterey, Big Sur and other areas,” Mr. Muenzer said. “We feel the designation of a national park will lead to more people who will take a drive inland to see the Pinnacles.”

Paul Spitler, director of Wilderness policy at The Wilderness Society praised Rep. Farr for his years devoted to preserving and enhancing the monument.

“As a national park, Pinnacles is a unique American landscape that would attract even more visitors who want to experience its dramatic volcanic scenery and enjoy unspoiled views of oak savannas and grasslands,” Mr. Spitler said. “Rep. Farr’s legislation has the strong support of cities and businesses that would benefit from increased tourism. We urge the Senate to approve this important bill that protects central California wildlands and helps our state’s recreation economy.”

While The Wilderness Society is pleased this legislation is moving forward, H.R. 3641 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, and it urges Congress to designate these deserving lands as wilderness.