National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places listed the Minidoka Internment National Monument in Hunt, north of Twin Falls, because of a proposed large dairy cattle feedlot just more than a mile from the site.
"The threat identified is kind of unique," said Dan Everhart, president of the board of Preservation Idaho, the state-level organization working with the National Trust. "The national listing hasn't often, if ever, included an environmental threat to a site."
This is the second time the feedlot has been proposed. The first time, it was withdrawn after the State Legislature closed a loophole preventing anyone living more than one mile from a proposed feedlot to offer testimony.
Now the feedlot, known as a concentrated animal feeding operation, is back, and National Park Service officials are concerned that if it is built, the smell, flies, dust and airborne pathogens would keep visitors away.
"It would be a de facto closing of the site because no one would be able get out of the car," Everhart said.
The Minidoka Internment Camp opened in 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when 120,000 Japanese Americans were rounded up across the Pacific Northwest and moved to one of 10 camps in isolated areas.
At its peak, the Idaho camp held 13,000 internees in 600 buildings, surrounded by five miles of barbed-wire fences.
The site closed in 1945, and since then many of the buildings have been dismantled. Six acres of the camp were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and it was named as an Idaho Centennial Site in 1990. It became a national monument in 2001, when the National Park Service took control of more than 72 acres of the camp.
Because of lack of funding, there is limited staff or interpretive services at the monument. The monument contains ruins of the military police guard house, the visitor reception building, a rock garden and a hand-dug root cellar. Although parks officials have considered expanding offerings by rebuilding a barracks complex and including on-site services, many of the camp's most substantial structures remain outside the monument boundaries, including barracks and even a fire station.
Legislation is now before of Congress that would expand the monument and add a related site on Bainbridge Island in Washington. The legislation would also create a $38 million grant program to protect all Japanese internment camps.
While Everhart is urging others to take action, he said it is still unknown if the listing will make a difference. "It remains to be seen whether Idahoans will give this list much credence," he said.