for National Geographic News
Two events in American history were the focus of land conservation efforts announced last week. Separated by almost two centuries, both events will go down in the history books as key points in the shaping of the United States.
The 1804-1806 expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark has been standard fare in classrooms for decades and is now the subject of countless exhibits, documentaries, and popular histories. The expedition was critical in the formation of the geographical boundaries of the nation we now know. Many people consider it to be equally important in shaping the national character.
Less certain is how exactly the events following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, will unfold in the history books. But the courage, resolve, and determination of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 over Pennsylvania are testimony to an enduring indomitable American spirit.
Last Friday, The Conservation Fund, an Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit organization, announced the protection of lands that will forever memorialize this spirit:
Neu's Point State Wildlife Management Area was designated at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers in North Dakota, where Lewis and Clark spent several days on their journey west.
In Pennsylvania, The Conservation Fund announced the permanent protection of 29 acres (12 hectares) at the core of what will become the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Corps of Discovery in the 21st Century
Neu's Point Wildlife Management Area was established after the purchase of the land from a local family. Open to the public in spring 2004, it will protect more than 400 acres (160 hectares) of historically significant land that is also critical fish and wildlife habitat.
Lewis and Clark were forced by high winds to stop at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers in April 1805. They spent several days exploring the area before continuing on their quest to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean.
"Much of the land at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers appears as it did when Lewis and Clark first arrived," said The Conservation Fund's president, Larry Selzer. "The establishment of the Neu's Point WMA will ensure that the natural, historic, and cultural values of the area are permanently protected for current and future generations."
The waters of the confluence are considered to be among the most biologically important in North Dakota, providing habitat for the paddlefish and the endangered pallid sturgeon. The riverbanks support important nesting and migration habitat for hundreds of species of birds, including the endangered piping plover and least tern.
"The creation of the Neu's Point WMA exemplifies a wonderful conservation outcome, but there is more work to do," said the National Geographic Society's chairman, Gilbert M. Grosvenor. "Today, we have an unprecedented opportunity to conserve important historic sites and significant fish and wildlife habitat along two of our nation's most threatened river corridors."
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