The former chairman of the National Parks Service Advisory Board is not opposed to a controversial plan to designate Craters of the Moon National Monument a national park.
But Robin Winks said Thursday he would support the now-sidetracked proposal with some reluctance."I feel that sometimes we are a little too inclined to upgrade units that have been named monuments," Winks said during a session of the Frank Church Public Affairs Conference at Boise State University.
"Sometimes we do so for illegitimate reasons," said Winks, currently the chairman of Canadian Studies at Yale University.
Rep. Richard Stallings, D-Idaho, had proposed expanding the acreage covered by the site on the desert near Arco and declaring it a national park in a bid to bolster tourism. Despite its wealth of natural beauty, Idaho contains no national park.
But the plan drew stiff criticism from ranchers and sportsmen, who feared a park designation would eliminate traditional uses of the land.
A month ago, Stallings finally announced he was dropping any further efforts for a park designation until the feuding parties in the matter could work out their differences.
"The primary goal must be protection so I would accept a change as a strategic move," Winks said. "If a unit is threatened because it is a monument, and if it will receive better protection when it is a park, with reluctance I would accept a change in title or status."
But, he added, "I would be very unhappy to see all our national monuments become national parks. The experience you have at a national monument is different than that of a national park."