The National Trust for Historic Preservation released its 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in America for 2022 this week, and Idaho’s Minidoka National Historic Site is on the list.
The annual list highlights places of historical and cultural importance in the U.S. that the national trust sees as threatened by various issues, including climate change, development and neglect. This year’s theme, according to the trust, focuses on “sites of injustice and activism, and places of creative expression.”
The Minidoka site, 16 miles east of Jerome, marks the location of the Minidoka War Relocation Center. Around 13,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated at Minidoka in the 1940s, a result of an executive order from President Franklin Roosevelt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II.
About two-thirds of the more than 120,000 people who were sent to Minidoka and other camps in the interior of the Western U.S. were U.S. citizens. The federal government eventually apologized for the actions taken in the 1940s and issued reparations, but not until the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Minidoka, which was named a national monument in 2001 and a national historic site in 2008, is now threatened by the potential construction of a 400-turbine wind farm project, according to the list of endangered places.
“We are extremely disturbed by the proposed wind project and its disregard for the sacredness of Minidoka National Historic Site, where 13,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated during World War II,” said Robyn Achilles, executive director of Friends of Minidoka, in a news release.
The Lava Ridge Wind Project would be visible from Minidoka and permanently change the landscape around the area. Each wind turbine would stand approximately 740 feet tall, almost 140 feet taller than Seattle’s Space Needle, with turbines as long as a Boeing 747.
The proposed project, headed by New York private equity company LS Power, would occupy 73,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management property and become one of the largest wind farms in the U.S., according to Friends of Minidoka.
“Friends of Minidoka supports renewable energy, but believes that projects must be sited in a way that respects and preserves significant historic sites,” Achilles said in the release. “We and our partners urge the Bureau of Land Management to protect Minidoka National Historic Site as a place for learning and healing.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Friends of Minidoka are both calling on people to send letters to BLM Idaho Director Karen Kelleher and to Tracy Stone-Manning, U.S. director of the Bureau of Land Management, to urge denial of LS Power’s permit application – or at the least, to reduce the number of turbines that would be built.
“Minidoka National Historic Site serves as a critical and painful reminder of the fragility of democracy,” said Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in the release. “Eighty years after the first Japanese Americans were wrongfully incarcerated at Minidoka, Asian Americans continue to experience anti-Asian violence, harmful stereotypes, and hatred.
“Minidoka reminds us of the mistakes of the past so that we can do better in the future, and it must be preserved and protected as a sacred site of conscience in the ongoing fight against hate and racism in our country.”
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