Texas Advocacy Group Pushes to Protect Big Bend National Park With a Major Federal Designation

by Anna Dunn

One Texas advocacy group is pushing to protect Big Bend National Park with a major federal designation. The organization, Keep Big Bend Wild, wants the government to designate the as a federal wilderness area. Advocates with the organization think that this will help keep Big Bend Rugged and wild for generations to come.

According to Texas Monthly, the designation would have very little impact on how outfitters in the park operate or what visitors can do. What the designation does do, however, it would prevent new infrastructure from popping up outside the already build-up park area.

Last year 581,000 people visited Big Bend National Park. The Park is located in the Chisos Mountains.

It offers some incredible outdoor experiences you can only achieve by days long hiking journeys. The park plays host to tons of wildlife including Mountain Lions, Owls, and other important birds of Prey, and Tarantulas.

The Parks’ superintendent supports this movement and hopes that the Park will get the designation.

Here’s Why the Wilderness Designation Matters For Big Bend National Park

The Wilderness designation comes from the Wilderness Act, signed into law by President Johnson in 1964. It provides even further protection to federal lands to prevent development. The Parks’ superintendent supports this movement and hopes that the Park will get the designation. This isn’t even the first time people have tried. The National Parks Service Tried to get Big Bend National Park the designation in 1978. But the motion never went through.

However, in 1978, Park organizers hadn’t developed much. And it needed more work to accommodate visitors. It’s a big reason congress didn’t approve the request.

“Most of the folks who were boosters of getting a park established were still around and influential,” Raymond Skiles, a key member of the movement and a former Big Bend Employee told Texas Monthly. “They made a huge effort to get a park established and get good roads, lodging, and gas stations. At the time, there was concern that accessibility achievements might somehow be rolled back by the wilderness designation.”

Now, however, that’s simply not a concern. Additionally, Big Bend is one of the very few national parks that isn’t protected by the Wilderness Act.

And again, visitors wouldn’t notice much of a change. Plus, parks workers can still construct new hiking trails under the designation.

“I can’t think of a single change in human use [that the designation would bring],” Skiles continued. He added that Johnson never made the wilderness designation to “keep people out or shut down integral facilities. It was to say, ‘Hey, there is a point where development achieves its goals . . . and let’s save the untarnished landscape that is really why people want to be there in the first place.’”