Thirty-one years ago today, Mount St. Helens blew away 1,300 feet of its upper reaches, bowled over and scorched 230 square miles of forest , and killed 1,500 elk, 5,000 deer and 57 people in the most devastating volcanic eruption in the history of the United States.
In the wake of the eruption, St. Helens and the land surrounding it was designated a National Volcanic Monument, which preserved the area in a relatively natural state while also providing opportunities for scientific research, tourism and recreation. But dwindling federal budgets — the Forest Service is the agency in charge of the monument — have led some groups to advocate for national park status for Mount St. Helens.
In fact, today, in commemoration of the 1980 eruption, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Cowlitz County Tourism Bureau, EcoPark Resort, and other supporters are staging a press conference to renew the call for a Mount St. Helens National Park.
So how does this relate to Mount Hood?
Since about the mid 2000s, there has been a similar campaign pressing for a Mount Hood National Park.
Launched and guided by Portlander Tom Kloster, a transportation planning manager at Metro, the Mount Hood National Park Campaign posits that the Forest Service, which oversees the Mount Hood National Forest, has been charged with an impossible task: to simultaneously protect the mountain and exploit it through timber sales, energy corridors and the like. Turning the area into a national park, according to the campaign, would put it under the auspices of the National Park Service, an agency guided by a much clearer mission . . .
“…to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
It is an interesting idea to be sure, and one that, to those of a more conservation-based persuasion, would seem to be a worthwhile endeavor.
The campaign’s web site and Kloster’s accompanying WyEast blog make a strong case for national park status. There would, of course, be lots of opposition from timber companies — even though the annual cut in the Mount Hood National Forest is now a fraction of what it once was — utility providers, off-road vehicle groups and many others. The hordes and the accompanying amenities I’ve encountered at many national parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon also make me wonder just what Hood might turn into as a national park.
But I’m a big fan of protecting beautiful places, and Mount Hood, to me, is worthy of protection. If making it a national park would help accomplish that, I’d be all for it.