Why make Mt. St. Helens a National Park?

by: Posted on: October 28, 2011

By Sean Smith, Policy Director for the National Parks Conservation Association

Editor’s Note: Increased funding for scientific research, protection from open pit mines, wildlife preservation, water quality conservation, and business from interested onlookers are all benefits of being a national park.  This is why we, along with the National Parks Conservation Association, believe that the beautiful Mt. St. Helens deserves national park designation.  Read below to learn more.


For centuries people have been moved by Mount St. Helens’ sheer beauty and power, leaving many who visit the volcano changed forever. Mt. St. Helens’ May 18th, 1980 eruption is one of a long line dating back tens of thousands of years. The impact this volcano has had on the environment and surrounding communities causes many to look back at its past in awe, but its future is uncertain. There is a growing number of local community leaders looking forward to and fighting for the mountain’s future.  Many business owners, community leaders, and conservation organizations believe it’s time to elevate Mt. St. Helens to a national park and the National Parks Conservation Association agrees.


Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, was established in 1872. Since then, the national park system has grown to nearly 400 sites including Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Mount Rainier. Now, the spectacular wildlife, unparalleled scenery, and rich history of the U.S. national park system are the envy of the world.  Last year more than 280 million people visited the U.S. park system. Here in Washington State, our parks welcomed more than seven million visitors.


National park designation for Mt. St. Helens could provide local gateway communities such as Kelso, Vancouver, Castle Rock, and Amboy with much needed economic growth. Recent research by Michigan State University found that national parks generate more than $13 billion for gateway communities, supporting more than a quarter million jobs.  Jobs created range from those in the hospitality sector to the outdoor recreation industry and everything in between.

Over the past century, the National Park Service has built a solid reputation and brand. This is why communities as diverse of Waco, Texas and Fort Hampton, Virginia are working with their elected officials on adding their local wonders, Waco Mammoth and Fort Monroe, to the national park system.  Currently, there are roughly a dozen bills with bipartisan congressional support that will either expand current national parks or create new ones. With the coming of the Park Service’s centennial in 2016, public interest in national parks is at an all-time high.


Mount St. Helens is likely the most iconic American landscape currently not in the national park system.  Its natural, cultural, and historic wonders are on par with other parks such as Olympic, Zion, and Crater Lake. Our mountain and our communities deserve the benefits that will come with national park designation.  If Mt. St. Helens is designated, its natural treasures will receive better protection from potential housing developments and a proposed open pit gold mine.  The mine would be one of the world’s largest open pit mines and would be visible from the main visitor center.  Ascot Resources of Canada has begun exploratory drilling in the Mount Margaret backcountry area, just to the northeast of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  The Mount Margaret backcountry is some of the most remote and pristine parts of the Gifford Pinchot national forest.  According to Ascot it may also sit over a large deposit of gold and copper.  At least that’s what Ascot hopes.  Groups like the Gifford Pinchot task force believe Ascot is overestimating the value of the deposits and minimizing the mine’s potential impact upon water quality and wildlife.  Visit the Gifford Pinchot Task Force Website to learn more: http://www.gptaskforce.org/


A Mount St. Helens National Park will also collect more predictable funding for public access, operations, and maintenance.  Funding for scientific research into climate change, volcanology, and wildlife recovery may also increase.


Currently, supporters of a Mount St. Helens National Park are working with local elected officials, including Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, on what a park proposal might look like.  You can help. Please call your elected officials and voice your support for adding Mount St. Helens to the National Park System.


The National Park System preserves and protects some of America’s most sacred ideas, hopes, and places. Let’s add Mount St. Helens to that list.


For more information visit: http://www.npca.org/northwest/mount_st_helens.html

One Response to “Why make Mt. St. Helens a National Park?”

  • I'm a bit surprised it isn't already a National Park. Just goes to show how under informed I am. Given that, the end result seems apparent. I see no relevant opposition large enough to with hold Mount Saint Helen's from becoming a National Park. 
    by: Christopher Youngon: Tuesday 15th of November 2011

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