ARCO, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

(The Intermountain West's Continuing Fight with Itself - Part II)

February 2016

At the risk of inviting the takeover of another small Western country town by camouflage-wearing, assault-rifle-toting terrorists, I'd like to draw your attention to a current story coming from eastern Idaho. It seems that the residents of Arco - all (or most of the) 700 of them - are proposing to have the designation of Craters of the Moon National Monument changed to Craters of the Moon National Park. Note the word "National." This a joke, right? These are Idaho people - and not "city folks" from Boise or Pocatello, but people from a section of one of the most Right Wing, States' Rights, militia-crazed states in the Union that have always looked to grazing, farming, mining and logging for their livelihood. These are folks who come out of the womb hating the Feds. Why in the world would they be willing to support even keeping Craters as a Federal site, let alone strengthening its Federal status?

 Why? Money. The town is dying, and the people are looking for some way to revitalize the local economy. The way they are thinking about is tourism. Apparently, a good share of those who live in the area think that Craters of the Moon is an amazing place. Amazing to those who actually see it, that is, but "Monument" doesn't seem to the locals to give the park the kind of recognition it needs to draw people in. Travelers don't turn off the highway to see a "monument;" tourists don't think of a "monument" as an actual vacation destination. But National Parks are proven to draw people, and people bring money and create the need for local jobs.

 But there seems to be a disconnect here. This is a region in which people hate Federal control of anything. Why not get Craters of the Moon transferred to the State or to the counties that share it? Doesn't Craters State Park, or maybe Craters County Resource Area, have a nice ring to it? Further, why would Arco even talk about any kind of government reservation when a large percentage of the lands in the region are administered by the U. S. Bureau of Land Management and the U. S. Forest Service? Wouldn't the best way to improve the local economy be to turn all those lands over to State or local control, so the people could graze, farm, log and mine like they used to do in the olden days?

Apparently, the locals don't think so. 

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