OPPONENTS OF THE PLAN to expand Redwood National Park have won a round in Congress this fall. On both sides of Capitol Hill, the expansion legislation has been set aside until 1978. While this is not likely to result in an immediate resumption of logging in the area, California cannot maintain indefinitely the moratorium that now exists. Congress will simply have to give the park legislation priority in January if the right redwoods are to be saved.
Of course, it is not yet certain that Congress is going to approve this expansion. Although the Houses Interior Committee and the Senate Energy Committee have voted to add about 50,000 acres to the park, opposition is still vigorous. Some of it comes from those who think the land would cost too much and would not attract enough visitors to justify the cost. Some of it comes from those who agree with the belief of residents of the park area that the expansion would result in high unemployment among timber-company workers and a substantial loss of revenue for local governments.
While there is some merit in both of these objections, we think Congress should not hesitate to follow the general outline of the recommendations of the committees. They have built into the legislation several protections for displaced workers and local communities. These appear to be adequate, perhaps even generous, although they fall short of what the local citizens and organized labor have sought. The long-range key to economic vitality in that part of California, it seems to us, lies in a vigorous effort by the U.S. Park Service to turn an expanded Redwood Park into a major tourist attraction. Expansion of the park would eliminate some of the factors that now make it not particulary appealing for longer visits.
It is true that this park, if expanded, would be far and away the most expensive national park iver created. That is because of the present value of the trees (as lumber) that would be preserved. The 50,000 or so acres would cost somewhere between $350 million and $500 million - the low cost is the estimate of proponents of the park, the high one of its opponents. While that is a huge amount of money to put into a single park, it does not strike us as unreasonable, given the need to protect the already existing park and the desirability of preserving for the future a solid part of the nation's heritage.