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Photographer Hoping To Document Sites With Potential To Be Included In National Park System

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If he raises $20,000, a Washington, D.C.-based photographer will crisscross the nation to document sites he believes should be in the National Park System.

A Washington-based photographer is hoping to spend six months on the road documenting sites across the United States that he believes have the potential to be included in the National Park System.

Zack Frank, a professional photographer with a long list of credits, has identified 54 locations, ranging from the North Woods of Maine and Blackwater Falls in West Virginia to "a second Yosemite in the mountains of Wyoming." If he can raise $20,000, he'll set out on the road to photograph locations that will go into a 200-page landscape photography book to be called Undiscovered America.

Over the last 7 years I'™ve been researching these unknown natural landscapes and the major difference between these places and the National Parks is that these areas weren'™t lucky enough to be championed by people like John Muir, Timothy O'™Sullivan or Ansel Adams. As a result they'™ve gone overlooked by most artists and travelers. Fortunately, it'™s not too late to give these locations the attention they deserve before they end up overly commercialized like Niagara Falls or destroyed like West Virginia's eroded mountaintops. The locations range from privately owned lands and American Indian reservations to state preserves and lesser-known Department of the Interior sites. The environments include: the deepest canyon in the United States (deeper than the Grand Canyon), a second Yosemite in the mountains of Wyoming, the greatest undeveloped wilderness in the east, the largest remaining natural habitat in the Great Plains, canyons carved out of the painted desert, caves, badlands, mountains, forests, wetlands and much more.


Pledge levels range from $5 all the way to $3,000, a donation that would gain you "official sponsor" status of his project. You can learn more of Mr. Frank's project, watch a short video explaining it, and donate to it, at this site.


NIce project to support.

I disagree. Putting aside his ego and his generalizations about photographers and looking at the project itself, I do not find that these places need National Park status.  In fact, I believe that Park status will degrade many of the places he lists.

Some of the places he lists are already under National Park care but with the added benefit of not being National Parks. National Park status increases visitation, use, and commercialization of a location.Those sites will become a check box on a list of places to visit, nothing more than a passing photograph on a family vacation. 

I have been to 31 of the places on his list. Not because any of them are National Parks but because they are wonderful locations. Those places are not "undiscovered" they just aren't as promoted or commercial as most National Parks. I would kind of prefer to keep them that way.

Very good points, dahkota.  I guess I'm wondering this: if these places do indeed lack protections from commercial interests, would alerting people to their existence help generate public support for their preservation (whether or not the project ultimate results in "national park" designations)?  And if they did result in these designations, there does seem to be a trade-off.  On the one hand, the "national park" designation seems to draw interest from the public in the preservation of these places; on the other hand, this interest seems to occasion "commercialization," etc.  I tend to get a bit disillusioned by what strikes me as the overdevelopment of Yosemite, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, etc., but then I figure the frontcountry pays for the preservation of the backcountry.  Thanks for showing the other side of this issue.

After spending time in the Smokies, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, I don't see the backcountry areas in any of those places as overran.  Yellowstone's backcountry especially is not that heavily visited. It's a lonely place if you go into it.  Same can be said for the Smokies, and Yosemite.  I know spots in both places, where you can go, and not encounter a lot of people.  As beautiful as Yosemite Valley is, I just see that place as a quick stop before going somewhere else. 

I tend to agree though, that not everything should be a national park.  I'd prefer that the park service works to expand current parks, and add wilderness in the parks they have, and focus less on acquiring new parks.  Although, i'd like to see some more national monuments upgraded, but not everything needs to be a national park.  Sometimes, it is better left as a USFS/BLM wilderness, or NRA.  I always think Cuyahoga would have been better left as a NRA. 

This reminds me of a quote:

“The motor tourist is a motor tourist. He sticks by the road. He can be concentrated because he refuses to be anything else, and concentration of crowds within definite selected areas means saving the vast bulk of the System’s wildernesses from trampling and deterioration.”

I agree, SMM; to clarify, it's the frontcountry that feels overdeveloped to me, but the crowds in each of those parks dissipate pretty quickly once one gets into the backcountry.

This to is an interesting discussion, your right justinh there are two sides here. The Sierra Nevada parks and wilderness areas, I feel, are not to crowed, but it is important to remember that that one reason why is the trailhead quote systems developed back in the early seventies by a NP scientist who is now a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the USGS. I think about this reservation system as it relates to other reservation systems proposed for the heavily used parks during peak visitation periods. Needless to say, it is an added trip planning effort, but it works extremely well. Of the some 75 plus trailheads in Yosemite, typically only 10 fill on a daily basis, so often times you can not get one of those trips but usually there is an alternative. The Half Dome cables, like the Whitney trail are exceptions. In any case, I am not sure all these proposed additional sites need to be National Parks,  but the points being made are interesting. 

Thank you for your interest in my project, but please allow me to speak to your issues with my project.

Not all places 'need' National Park status, I am merely pointing out places that are often lesser-known than, but equally interesting as the National Parks. That being said, Every president since since 1890 (excluding Truman and Nixon) have signed legislation creating a new National Park, so there will be more. I am only showing people a list of potential candidates before political or economic short-sightedness destorys them.

About "visitation, use, and commercialization" I would suggest that the the American landscape should be special to every American. Keeping these places only for our ourselfs is selfish and only endangers them in the long-run, as it's easier to sell off beautiful lands if only the traveling-elite know about them. They won't all become National Parks, but they should be celebrated with equal pride. Additionally, only the most famous parks have these problems. I've yet to hear one person complain about the commercialization of Capitol Reef, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Gongaree, Pinnacles, Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, Theodore Roosevelt, Mesa Verde, Great Basin, Lassen Volcanic, etc...

Also, I'm absolutely sure that some things on this list will stand out to you as places you recognize well, especially if you're from that area, or travel frequently. It's easy for someone in New York to say the Adirondacks are well-known, but if you grew up on the west coast you might not have no idea what they look like... but you'd still be able to picture the Everglades, Redwood, or Death Valley because there is iconic imagery of them. That's what I'm trying to do here, give these places iconic imagery that we can all connect with, so these sites will be in our cultural consciousness with Yosemite Valley, Old Faithful, and the Grand Canyon.

Backcountry vs 'frontcountry' is an interesting problem, however I'm not advocating for making an army of new roads in these areas. 53 percent of National Park System lands are Wilderness Areas (43,890,500 acres, more than any other federal agency), and I see no reason this should change. People can visit these places without ruining them.

I'm also thrilled you've been to 31 of these sites, but the vast majority of people have not. I'm just trying to let others know about them, so it's not only you and I who get to enjoy them.

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out!

I tend to agree with you that just designating a place a National Park will not  instantlly turn it into a Yosemite Valley.  This is usually never the case.  Many of the parks that have been upgraded since the late 80s are still not on many people's radar. 

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