Pinnacles gains Senate approval to become national park

Pinnacles National Monument is home to unique geologic structures that some believe call for an upgrade to national park status.

After months of working its way through the House of Representatives and into the Senate, a bill to make Pinnacles National Monument into a national park was approved this week and awaits the signature of President Barack Obama to make it official.

The bill elevates the 26,000-acre monument in San Benito and Monterey counties to the 59th national park and it is the first national park created by Congress since 2004.

H.R. 3641 was proposed by Congressman Sam Farr, D-Carmel, who represents San Benito and Monterey counties.

“The Pinnacles is a special place and I am proud to have worked with Senator (Barbara) Boxer to elevate it to a national park,” Farr said, in a press release. “Often referred to as the missing novel in our National Parks library, this treasure will finally take its rightful place on the shelf next to Yosemite, Yellowstone and all of our other wonderful parks. Today is a great day not just for California but for all Americans, who will want to now come visit this geological and ecological wonder.”

Established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, Pinnacles National Monument is the 11th oldest National Monument in the United States. The area draws its name from the volcanic spires that were formed by the eruption of the Neenach Volcano over 23 million years ago.

The Pinnacles system is home to 149 species of birds, 49 mammals, 22 reptiles, six amphibians, 68 butterflies, 36 dragonflies and damselflies, nearly 400 bees and many thousands of other invertebrates.

The monument is also home to 30 endangered California condors. Since 2003, the park service has been a part of the California Condor Recovery Program to re-establish California condors at Pinnacles.

The bill was supported by Monterey and San Benito counties, including their respective Chambers of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureaus. San Benito County Supervisor Jerry Muenzer visited Washington, D.C. last fall to testify before a house committee on the benefits of making Pinnacles a national park for the local economy.

Ken Burns, director of “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” also supports the legislation.

“The Central Coast is ready to welcome visitors to this national treasure,” Farr said. “From exploring caves, to viewing springtime wildflowers, to hiking through spire-like rock formations, visitors and families can participate in activities that leave lasting memories. It is truly worthy of National Park status.”

The legislation also renames the Pinnacles Wilderness within the National Monument as the Hain Wilderness. Schuler Hain was a conservationist who led the effort to establish Pinnacles National Monument in 1908.

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