National Park Service preserves area around Station Camp for all timeThanks to a united and effective congressional delegation, and with incredible local support, the final piece of the Lewis and Clark legacy here at the mouth of the Columbia River is secure for all time.

News came last Tuesday that the National Park Service is allocating $2.5 million to purchase a permanent conservation easement on the forest backdrop to Station Camp, the explorers' primary encampment on the Washington side of the river. This also is a positive testimonial to the foresight of the park service and of the Bush administration as a whole in this matter; one could not wish for better support than this park receives. The McGowan-Garvin family deserves praise for their patience, cooperation and civic-mindedness.

In the East, commercial and residential development at times threatens damage to the fundamental integrity of Civil War battle sites and other historical places. It's gratifying to see that officials have learned from these situations. Recent actions here will ensure that future generations never have trophy homes and filling stations closely clustered around key Lewis and Clark sites in Washington, or in Oregon, where crucial lands around Fort Clatsop have also recently achieved full protection.

Although the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial provided the vital impetus to expand and enhance the national park dedicated to their achievements, Station Camp conservation is a prime example of how setting aside park land can bring benefits far beyond initial goals. This is land that shines with importance for reasons that in some ways dwarf its iconic role in the exploration of the West.

Known in English as the Middle Village, the old Chinook "capital" at Station Camp was the epicenter of a mighty civilization. The forest being preserved by this week's announcement once witnessed scenes of unimaginable glory and sorrow. Not only is this site one of our nation's archaeological treasures, it is a lasting tribute to the Chinook people. One can draw parallels with the preservation of some of the charred ruins in downtown Hiroshima.

While this completes the purchase of lands for the new national park, one important thing remains to be done, and there also was progress on it this week. Jerry Ostermiller, president of the Columbia River Maritime Museum and a leading advocate of forming a National Heritage Area here, testified at a U.S. Senate hearing last Tuesday. Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith spoke strongly in favor of authorizing a feasibility study, a key step leading to the heritage designation.

We live in the midst of one of the West's most historical and culturally rich landscapes. Being formally recognized as a heritage area, the first on the West Coast, will tell the nation and the world what a cherished and fascinating home we possess. We're very lucky to live where we do, especially in this time when so many good things are coming together.

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