Monday, August 27, 2012

SNRA at 40

Almost lost in the smoke and haze of last week's Halstead Fire, a small event took place marking much bigger event that took place 40 years ago on August 22nd when President Richard M. Nixon signed legislation to create a crown jewel of The Gem State--The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA).

The few members of the public who attended the simple ceremony were easily outnumbered by Forest Service employees Wednesday morning at the Stanley Ranger Station. Two cakes were cut and Smokey Bear greeted Staff and visitors.  There were no speeches but happy smiles were in abundance. Over the past 40 years, the SNRA has logged millions of "likes," "shares" and "Friends" long before Facebook came along.  Even though the Wednesday event was lightly attended, those folks milling around the ranger Station lobby shared a kindred spirit with the untold legions of SNRA friends around America and The World.

It is hard to imagine Idaho without the SNRA sitting astride the heart of the state.  It's even more difficult to imagine the multi-year battle fought to finally bring legislation out of the US House and Senate that was finally delivered to the White House on August 14th.  Despite his busy schedule that day, President Nixon affixed his signature to H.R. 6957 and it was enacted as law PL92-400 on August 22, 1972.  As the late and legendary Senator Frank Church said afterwards, "It has been a long fight."

Each time we visit the SNRA, we feel a deepening sense of awe and gratitude for those men and women who fought the good fight and won back in the late 1960's and early 1970's.  No matter how many times we read those historic words written atop the SNRA's enabled legislation, we give thanks for those who cared enough to make a genuine positive difference in the land we love.
(Editor's Note added @ 10:30 am 8/28/12)  The past 24 hours have been a very interesting roller coaster ride.  When we first wrote the above article, we described President Nixon signing the legislation into law.  Then we began a search to find a photo of him signing the legislation. We contacted The Nixon Library.  Jon Fletcher, MLIS, AV Archivist at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda, California, sent us President Nixon's complete minute-by-minute calendar for the entire day of August 22, 1972.  You can click here to see a copy housed in our Google Docs.  After reading and re-reading Nixon's August 22nd calendar we could find no reference to his signing the legislation.  To be safe, we read the entire 139-page calendar for the entire month of August 1972.  There was no hint of his signing the SNRA into law.

That's when we deleted our reference to the signed and said here: "President Nixon definitely didn't conduct a bill signing.  He was preparing to leave that day for the Republican National Convention in Miami."  We actually spent several hours on the topic yesterday.  We came to a firm and unshakable conclusion that Nixon did not sign the legislation--it became law 10 days after being delivered to the White House and was therefore enacted without his signature.

WRONG AGAIN!  For one last "fact check" we sent off an email to the research staff at the Congressional Record, perhaps the most authoritative record of the "doings" on Congress for about the past 200 years.
Lo and behold, we received an email reply this morning proving conclusively that President Nixon did indeed sign the legislation into law on August 22, 1972.  The fact that he signed it as printed in the Congressional record constitutes an undeniable and irrefutable historical documentation of his signing.

Sorry for the confusion--this is how we learn.

Here is the text of the email we rec'd this morning:

According to the Congressional Record, vol. 118, page 29653 under Messages from the President, "H. R. 6957. An act to establish the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in the State of Idaho, to temporarily withdraw certain national forest land in the State of Idaho from the operation of the U. S. mining laws, and for other purposes;" was signed by the President on August 22, 1972.
Two pages are attached from the Congressional Record, vol. 118.  Page 28311 (August 15, 1972) has H. R. 6957 two times - under the heading Enrolled Bills Signed and Bills Presented to the President.  Page 29653 (September 7, 1972) has H. R. 6957 once under the heading Messages from the President.
So, according to the Congressional Record, you have been celebrating the correct date, August 22nd.

You can click on either or both of the links above to view the documents that are now housed on our Google Docs.

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