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Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park: The Battle to Create Minnesota’s National Park

Fred T. Witzig
Foreword by Elmer L. Andersen
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Voyageurs National Park
    Book Description:

    Voyageurs National Park chronicles the complex legal and political campaign to found Minnesota’s only national park. Fred Witzig’s thoroughly documented and referenced research allows him to offer a detailed view of the unanticipated disappointments and defining moments of achievement that accompanied this complicated legislative battle, and focus on the individuals and groups who were instrumental in its establishment.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9423-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Elmer L. Andersen

    August 22,1987, was a bright day at Voyageurs National Park. The sun was glancing off the ripples of Rainy Lake, making it a sea of diamonds. A large crowd in a festive mood had gathered for the dedication of Rainy Lake Visitor Center, the first visitor center in Voyageurs National Park, equipped so completely that a family could come without gear of any kind and have a Voyageurs Park experience. In addition to the visitor center, there was a dock and launches to take people out onto the water for a cruise around the islands, so they could get a...

  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Legislation authorizing the secretary of the Department of the Interior to establish Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on January 8,1971. This action occurred almost eighty years after the Minnesota Legislature, in April 1891, approved a concurrent resolution requesting that the president create a national park in Minnesota by “setting apart a tract of land along the northern boundary of the state, between the mouth of the Vermilion River on the east and Lake of the Woods on the west....”¹ (Much of that territory identified in the 1891 request was incorporated...

  7. CHAPTER ONE The National Park Service in Northeastern Minnesota: The Early Years
    (pp. 12-20)

    The Quetico-Superior Council’s proposal in 1927 for an International Peace Memorial Forest in the Rainy Lake watershed helped focus attention on the remaining forested lands and the disposition of the extensive area of cutover lands in northeastern Minnesota. The council, under Oberholtzer’s leadership, had assumed a lead role in shaping policy for publicly owned land in this region. As the economic depression of the 1930s deepened, local units of government saw vast amounts of privately held land disappear from the tax rolls. Practically all of the large landowners within this area permitted their land to go tax delinquent. Many townships...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Developing a Proposal for Voyageurs National Park
    (pp. 21-38)

    With NPS Director Conrad Wirth’s authorization for advanced studies in hand, NPS personnel began laying the framework for detailed field investigations of the Kabetogama area. The scope of the study was outlined in a June 21,1962, memorandum addressed to Midwest Regional Director Howard Baker from Assistant Regional Director Chester C. Brown.¹ The objective of the memorandum was to provide background information to Wirth, who was scheduled to visit northeastern Minnesota during the last week in June. Wirth was to be the honored guest of Governor Elmer Andersen at the dedication of Minnesota’s newest park, Bear Head Island State Park near...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Delay and Frustration
    (pp. 39-53)

    In early March 1963, when Wayne Judy made his appeal for a public meeting on Voyageurs National Park at International Falls, he, along with most other park supporters, was unaware of the interagency controversy over the territorial extent of the proposed park. This dispute and the realization that the earlier field studies did not yield the kind of detail needed for a suitable report caused the NPS to shy away from public hearings in spring 1963. They did, however, schedule a briefing session for the benefit of the new governor, Karl Rolvaag, and other state officials.

    George Amidon, representing the...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Progress on Voyageurs Stalled
    (pp. 54-69)

    The new year began with more indications that Voyageurs National Park would be a hard sell, particularly to those residing near the boundaries of the proposed park. In early January 1965, Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman announced a 150,000-acre expansion of the no-cut zone around the BWCA and designated another 100,000 acres for addition in 1975, a move recommended by his special committee on management policies for the BWCA.¹ The announcement came as a jolt to area loggers and the timber industry in general, who saw this action as reinforcing their firm conviction that the federal government was determined to remove...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE State Administration Leads National Park Cause
    (pp. 70-96)

    When Assistant Secretary of the Interior Stanley Cain told fudge Hella that he should not expect much movement on the Voyageurs proposal until after the elections, he was probably thinking about the outcome ofcongressionalraces, which could have fiscal and policy implications for the department, its bureaus and agencies, and, by extension, the NPS. What he could not know at the time was that the fall elections at the state level in 1966 would produce a new governor in Minnesota and that the change in administrations would bring new life to the proposal for Voyageurs.

    The new governor was...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Introduction of Voyageurs National Park Legislation
    (pp. 97-118)

    The latter half of the 1960s saw the emergence of an “environmental movement” in the United States as a force for change and reform in the way we regarded and used our natural resources. The movement was gaining in public support and influence, and politicians at state and national levels could no longer regard it as a short-lived phenomenon that would fade as the initial energy and interest waned. The new “environmentalism” seemed all encompassing, touching on a host of issues including alternative energy resources, global population growth, energy resources, air and water quality, and the protection and preservation of...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN The Reintroduction of Park Legislation
    (pp. 119-144)

    When Congressman Blatnik submitted his Voyageurs National Park bill in July 1968, he told the House that no hearings would be held on the bill in that session, but they could expect the legislation to be reintroduced when the new Congress convened in January 1969. In the interim he anticipated public discussion on the merits of the legislation, and he fully expected interested parties to make comments and even suggestions for modifications in the bill. Also, he was not surprised to see opponents and proponents use the time to muster public support for their respective positions.

    VNPA Executive Secretary Rita...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Deadlocks and Bottlenecks
    (pp. 145-155)

    The decade of the 1970s, often called the environmental decade, was characterized by aggressive congressional and executive action to halt the continued deterioration of the nation’s natural environment.Newsweekmagazine devoted most of its January 23,1970, edition to what it called “The Ravaged Environment.” The articles in this special edition described serious cases of air, water, and soil pollution, shameful waste of natural resources, and growing public concern over what many were calling our national environmental crisis. Environmentalists, armed with a whole “new” vocabulary, emerged as the leaders in a crusade dedicated to restoring the nation’s natural systems to a...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Congressional Hearings
    (pp. 156-171)

    It is unlikely that anyone was prepared for what occurred during the two-day House Subcommittee hearings on the proposal for Voyageurs National Park. Toward the close of the second day, it appeared to some that the campaign for Voyageurs could be lost primarily because of the unyielding position taken by Governor LeVander on two issues: donation of state lands for inclusion in the park, and public hunting. Even though the subcommittee heard from more than forty witnesses, seven emerged as key figures during the procedure. Governor LeVander; Congressman Blatnik; Elmer Andersen; Sigurd Olson; Stanley Holmquist, state senate majority leader; Thomas...

  16. CHAPTER TEN Final Passage
    (pp. 172-188)

    At the September 10 meeting the VNPA executive committee was told by its executive secretary, Rita Shemesh, that it was absolutely imperative that action be taken on the Voyageurs legislation in the current session of the Congress. She said that although the operating funds for the association were dwindling, they were sufficient to see the bill through the remainder of the year. If, however, the legislation failed passage in this Congress, a major fund drive would be necessary, and the VNPA would have a difficult time regenerating public support for another run. Others voiced concern about what the 1971 state...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN The Final Step to Establishment: Land Donation and the State Legislature
    (pp. 189-212)

    News that the president had signed the legislation authorizing the establishment of Voyageurs National Park was greeted across Minnesota as a major triumph for conservation and environmental protection. There were many expressions of pride that national recognition had finally been given to the historical significance and the beauty of the westerly segment of the state’s border lake region, just as it had been some years earlier to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to the east. That this recognition came through designation as the nation’s thirty-sixth national park was especially significant. Press accounts appearing in newspapers around the state generously...

  18. CHAPTER TWELVE The Four Years to Establishment
    (pp. 213-234)

    Bill signing ceremonies are always pleasant occasions in the life of a politician after a victorious legislative battle. Politicians gather around the political leader and listen while he or she congratulates those who led the effort to see the legislation successfully through the political process. In the legislative history of Voyageurs National Park, the date was June 4,1971, the political leader was Governor Wendell Anderson, and the bill to be signed was authorization for the state to donate and transfer lands within the boundaries of the park to the federal government. Many of the state’s newspapers carried a picture of...

  19. Epilogue
    (pp. 235-238)

    During the month of August 2000, Voyageurs National Park celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary since establishment in 1975. Visitors to the park who had not been there for several years were surprised by the numerous visible changes, especially in park access and facilities. Arriving from the south on U.S. 53, they saw the first of several national park signs near the town of Orr, about fifty-five miles south of International Falls. The signs announce directions to the four entrance points to the park: Crane Lake, Kabetogama, Ash River, and Rainy Lake, eleven miles east of International Falls. Except for Crane Lake,...

  20. APPENDIX A. Voyageurs National Park Legislation
    (pp. 239-244)
  21. APPENDIX B. Legislative Chronology for Voyageurs National Park, 1891–2001
    (pp. 245-250)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 251-284)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-288)
  24. Index
    (pp. 289-302)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 303-303)