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Newberry Volcano Turns 400,000 Years Old 

And celebrates its 25th year as a National Monument

click to enlarge paulina_peak_kgentry.jpg

K. Gentry

The early 1990s were not the friendliest time for environmental causes. President George H.W. Bush was in office, and when talk turned to the environment, conservation was generally pitted against economic interests, with battle lines like Pacific Northwest forests—and the Spotted Owl—as a flash point for heated battles over which interest deserved more favor.

Within that context, an idea to protect Newberry Volcano within the Deschutes National Forest bubbled up. Along with Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush is one of only three presidents to not create any such protections for unique environmental spaces since the Antiquities Act was established in 1906.

Yet, a grassroots effort came from Oregon.

Although the most senior member of Congress from Oregon now, at the time, Peter DeFazio was a newbie, elected into office in 1987 to represent the Fourth District, a territory that covers from midrange coast to the Cascade Range. As rookie, he helped carry forward the idea to make Newberry as a National Monument, a designation that would provide protection and funding.

Newberry is one of the most versatile, with more volcanic features—obsidian rock field, extensive lava tubes—than any other National Park or Monument in the United States, and has breath-taking panoramic views from Paulina Peak that reaches near 8,000 feet—taller than any mountain east of the Mississippi River. Although a barren volcano in some spots, throughout its 50,000-acre span, in fact, the area bustles with life; the two lakes nestled there each virtually brim with trout and salmon.

Throughout the year, there are celebrations and special events to commemorate Newberry's quarter-century as a National Monument, starting on Friday with a kickoff event, including a talk from Rep. DeFazio.

Cristina Peterson, the lead ranger at Newberry National Volcanic Monument, provides the Source with a quick civic lesson on National Monuments.

SW: What is the process to become a National Monument?

CP: A National Monument can be designated by Executive Order, or by Congress. In the case of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a committee of dedicated, local citizens worked together to draft the legislation. The committee members came from various interest groups and gained the support of the state legislators who then brought the proposal to Washington, D.C.

SW: How does this designation differ from a National Park or National Forest?

CP: Broadly, a National Monument has similar protections to a National Park but they differ in two ways. The first is that a National Park must be designated by Congress whereas a National Monument can be designated by a President. The second [way] the two land designations differ is that National Parks are only managed by the National Park Service. A National Monument can be managed by any one of several federal agencies including the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

A National Park or Monument can be thought of as a living museum, preserved and protected for future generations. A National Forest is working land that may have multiple uses including activities such as grazing, logging, and the construction of structures such as communications towers. All of these types of public land provide places to recreate, carry out scientific research or other educational activities.

SW: How rare is a volcano as a National Monument?

CP: Newberry National Volcanic Monument is rare because it encompasses the greatest number of different volcanic features than any National Monument or Park. However, there are other Volcanic Monuments: Mount St. Helen's National Volcanic Monument in Washington; Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho; Lava Beds National Monument in California; and, Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico. And then several parks such as Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mt. Rainier, the National Parks in Hawaii.

25th Anniversary Kickoff Party

6:30-8:30 pm, Friday June 19

Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic and Recreation Center, 57250 Overlook Rd., Sunriver

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