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Coalition still seeking status change for Craters of the Moon

The Craters Change the Name Coalition is continuing its grassroots education strategy to urge Congress to re-designate Craters of the Moon National Monument as a national park. Wednesday, the group and its supporters met with the Idaho Farm Bureau. The bureau was one of several entities that held concerns about the proposal.

“Before throwing caution to the wind and jumping on the ‘let’s create a new national park bandwagon,’ a more thorough investigation of the proposal is needed,” IFB president Frank Priestley said on the bureau’s online news letter.

The bureau held several concerns about weather a name swap would make enough of a difference, or if management and regulations would change with the re-designation.

“We just want to make sure they aren’t going to implement regulations that are detrimental to agriculture,” said IFB public relations director John Thompson.

Craters of the Moon Superintendent Dan Buckley said the only change to the monument and preserve would be its name. This change would only affect the original 54,000 acres proclaimed by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 that is managed by the National Park Service.

Hunting and grazing policies, jurisdictional boundaries, its management practices, federal funding and park fees would remain the same. There would also be no restrictions on transportation, since Highways 20 and 26 are managed and maintained by the Idaho Transportation Department. In fact, the supporting coalition said, the only real change would be the economic climate within surrounding communities.

“As tourists visit surrounding areas, they take advantage of the local amenities (gas stations, restaurants and hotels). Those tourists’ dollars get reinvested into the communities and bolsters our economic stability,” said Craters Change the Name Coalition member Marie Cummins.

“When you think of National Monument, you think about a statue or small piece of history,” said Coalition member Helen Merrill. “A National Park is something that people plan. Craters would be publicized in ways that it never has been before.”

Wednesday, Craters of the Moon officials worked to show the Farm Bureau that the monument wasn’t just a “pile of lava and rock,” but is instead growing in interest among tourists. According to Buckley, the monument and preserve have received an average of 200,000 visitors a year. This year, officials said they expect 235,000. If Congress passes a name change, visitation could increase 30 percent.

??Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, the resolution passed the Idaho Senate to create the nation’s 60th national park. It would be the first national park located completely within the borders of Idaho. But the Idaho House of Representatives did not pass the bill.

The coalition said nearly all communities surrounding the monument and preserve have signed a letter of support.

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