What would a Drifltess National Park & Preserve look like?
In order to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of protecting a large swath of land in the Whitewater Valley and surrounding areas for a National Park & Preserve, four different plans of increasing magnitude of potential park borders have been crafted. Each plan analyzes the potential cost of acquiring the land in different sections using a mix of GIS software, publicly available data, and working assumptions. Also included is a possible unit of the park near Great River Bluffs State Park, along with public lands in Wisconsin.
It should be noted that while each plan assumes the total cost of acquiring the needed lands, there are different political and legal options for allowing continued residence and agricultural use on the land while still incorporating them into a National Park. These options would bring the cost down. The plans do not incorporate several towns that would remain untouched within the park.
A more detailed analysis of each plan can be found between pages 70-86 of the proposal.
Plan 1 - A Minimal National Park
This is an approximation of what would be minimally required for a national park using the Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area (IBA) of the Whitewater Valley. This highly prioritizes bluffland over farmland but does include a little farmland in order to keep the park continuous.
Total Area: 53,863 acres (Ranks 48th largest of 64 National Parks above Mammoth Cave NP)
Public Land: 34,957 acres
Land to Acquire: 18,906 acres
Total Cost: $116,548,880.00
Plan 2 - An Effective National Park
This is an approximation of what would be required for a national park that would excel at preserving the natural area while reducing impacts to current residents and industry. This still highly prioritizes bluffland over farmland, but does include some more farmland - especially in order to keep the park continuous for wildlife and solidify wonky park borders. The main change here is that this plan expands to other nearby established public lands and now includes a section of the UMRNWR.
Total Area: 91,301 acres (Ranks 42nd largest of 64 National Parks above Guadalupe Mts. NP)
Public Land: 52,227 acres
Land to Acquire: 37,074 acres
Total Cost: $227,547,920.00
Plan 3 - An Ideal National Park
This is an approximation of what would be required for an ideal national park, one large enough to not only protect a large swath of Driftless land for wildlife and flora but also large enough to arguably begin to feel a bit removed from the outside to the park's visitors. Designated wilderness areas within the park might be possible with time. This extra area would surely help to disperse the park's increased number of visitors. Bluffland is prioritized when extending along the Mississippi River, while some farmland would be needed to help round out the park's edges. More of the UMRNWR near Winona is included.
Total Area: 115,071 acres (Ranks 40th largest of 64 National Parks above Lassen Volcanic NP)
Public Land: 63,419 acres
Land to Acquire: 51,652 acres
Plan 4 - An Expansive National Park
This is an approximation of what would be required for a truly expansive national park that would surely include some designated wilderness areas in the future. The park would feel completely wild to its visitors. Land to be acquired would go to incorporating more established public lands further from the Whitewater Valley and would create an entirely unique wildlife corridor in the Upper Midwest for its sheer scale. These expansions would also increase exposure to the nearby towns of Wabasha and Winona. Some more farmland further up the Whitewater Valley would protect very expansive and continuous swaths for wildlife. The UMRNWR is included all the way to its northern terminus near Wabasha.
Total Area: 178,143 acres (Ranks 35th largest of 64 National Parks above White Sands NP)
Public Land: 87,071 acres
Land to Acquire: 91,072 acres
Total Cost: $605,300,275
Great River Bluffs Potential Unit
This is an approximation of a potential separate unit of a Driftless National Park & Preserve. The region surrounding the blufflands off Great River Bluffs State Park - some of the most prominent bluffs on the Mississippi River - was chosen as a site. This was done to increase visitorship via exposure to I-90, increase the economic output brought by each visitor by increasing the length of stay, dispersing visitors through the park, and protecting the high biodiversity in this region. This unit would provide dramatic vistas and hiking opportunities. The unit circumnavigates several towns and settlements in the area.
Total Area: 32,839 acres (Individually, ranks 55th largest of 64 National Parks above Cuyahoga Valley NP)
Public Land: 18,960 acres
Land to Acquire: 13,879 acres
Total Cost: $124,242,690
The Everything Altogether Plan
This is an approximation of what the inclusion of both the Plan 4 lands and the Great Bluffs Unit would entail for a quite expansive Driftless NP&P. Also included separately here are several tracts of strictly public lands over the river in Wisconsin.
Total Area: 210,982 acres (Without Wisconsin public lands, ranks 33rd largest of 64 National Parks above Shenandoah NP)
235,041 acres (With Wisconsin public lands, ranks 31st largest above Petrified Forest NP)
Public Land: 106,031 acres (130,090 acres w/ Wisconsin)
Land to Acquire: 104,951 acres
Total Cost: $729,542,965