National Historical Park
In 1992, fourteen sites in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho were added to Nez Perce National Historical Park, making it the most geographically diffuse unit in the national park system. The additions were consistent with the original conception of the park as a series of sites, or "string of pearls," whose significance derived from their historical association with Nez Perce country. Nevertheless, with so many sites spread across such a wide area, it remained to be seen whether the park additions would ultimately strengthen this imaginative park idea or stretch it to the breaking point.
It seems probable that the Nez Perce National Historical Park Additions Act of 1991, signed into law in October 1992, constitutes a watershed in the park's history. While the administrative adjustments to the park additions are only now unfolding, the campaign for the additions, the NPS feasibility studies on the proposed additions, and the legislative history of the 1992 act are now a closed chapter in the administrative history of Nez Perce National Historical Park.
The proposal to amend the original park act by adding sites outside of Idaho first surfaced in the 1960s, practically went dormant during the 1970s, and reawakened in the mid-1980s. It culminated with a legislative campaign during 1990-1992. The first section of this chapter traces the early development of this proposal through 1972. The next section examines what was virtually a second round of local initiatives and NPS studies in the 1980s. The third section summarizes the legislative history of the Nez Perce National Historical Park Additions Act of 1991. The fourth section considers some of the administrative dilemmas that this uniquely expansive park posed, with particular reference to the pre-existing NPS site of Big Hole National Battlefield, now embraced within the park. The last section of the chapter notes some recent administrative initiatives that have stemmed directly from the park additions. These seem to indicate dramatic new directions for the park's future.