Golden Gate University Law Review


Johanna H. Wald


The Presidio is unique. As a large area of natural habitat in a congested urban landscape, as a site which retains centuries of historic and prehistoric artifacts, as the longest continually operating military base in the United States, and as the southern promontory of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the world's most recognized vistas, the Presidio is without equal. Also unique are the politics which led to the terms under which this national park is now being managed. The 104th Congress, and particularly its leadership, mounted an unprecedented assault on America's public lands, including our national parks. Those leaders called for no less than eliminating parks and ending federal ownership and control of vast areas of the public estate. While unsuccessful in this frontal attack, they did succeed in inserting elements of their agenda into otherwise positive or innocuous legislation. The Presidio Trust bill, the topic of this article, came nowhere near accomplishing what those leaders hoped to accomplish. Yet a close analysis reveals troubling provisions heretofore unthinkable for management of our national parks. In sum, while the Presidio Trust legislation could have been worse, it needs to be improved for the sake of the Presidio and cannot be viewed as a model for the management of other parks.