WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of the Exterior announced Monday the grand opening of a new national park that covers nearly 150,000 square miles across the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, making it the largest American park in northern Europe.
"We are proud to officially open the George Washington National Park, Norway, in the great American city of Brønnøysund," Secretary of the Exterior Emmett Becker said. "From now on, this spectacular U.S. treasure will be preserved for future generations of Americans, and will no longer be vulnerable to exploitation by greedy private-sector developers, like, say, Norwegians."
"U.S. citizens from coast-to-coast-to-coast can enjoy the splendor of the breathtaking glaciers and frosted tundra that exist right here in our own backyard," Becker continued. "All you have to do is hop in the car, drive to the airport, take a 12-hour flight to Nord-Trøndelag County, find a kindly fisherman with a boat who is willing to row you out to the mainland, get on the one train that heads south down the Skagerrak coastline, and catch the ferry to the park gates in Kristiansand."
"America the beautiful," he added.
In late August, before designating the region a federally protected park, the DOE informed the people living in the area that they had 15 days to relocate before their homes were demolished. The department maintained that these trespassers, some of whom had reportedly lived there their entire lives without the DOE's knowledge, were encroaching on the unspoiled habitat of such species as the North American Norwegian reindeer, the North American Norwegian sea otter, and other indigenous American wildlife formerly found only in Norway.
The park also features interactive exhibits on such uniquely American traditions as julehefter and julebøker.
"No place speaks to the spirit of the American wilderness quite like the majestic Sogne Fjord," Becker said. "From the windswept vistas of Svalbard to the raw, stunning beauty of Stavanger, this park is as American as baseball, koldtbord, or apple pie."
The Department of the Exterior, formed in the mid-19th century as part of the Monroe Doctrine, is the branch of government dedicated to securing federally protected status for vast tracts of overseas land for the use of all U.S. citizens.
The DOE's first major contribution to the conservationist cause was the establishment of the James Monroe National Park over 90 percent of the Philippines in 1899, followed by the Teddy Roosevelt Panama Canal Waterfowl Preservation Zone in 1910. The DOE later went on to open preserves in such fragile ecosystems as the Abraham Lincoln Rain Forest in Brazil, the nation of Vietnam, and the Uusikaupunki National Park in Uusikaupunki, Outer New Jersey (formerly Finland).
Thus far, the new park has been visited by nearly five eager Americans and a surprisingly large number of European tourists.
"It's so beautiful up here—if a little cold," said Eileen Weinblatt of Helena, MT, who brought her family to the park on Monday as part of a tour of major American landmarks. "We went to see the Statue of Liberty last summer, and this fall, we're going to see the U.S. pyramids."
These U.S. national parks that exist outside the internationally recognized U.S. borders have occasionally stirred controversy. Much of the new George Washington National Park, Norway—which extends not only over much of the America-Norwegian landmass but also into offshore areas as well—has been determined by geologists to contain massive oil reserves, leading some to propose that the federal ban on drilling should be lifted.
"Why should we waste taxpayer money protecting a bunch of endangered American arctic foxes when gas prices are going through the roof?" energy industry lobbyist Carl Frye said. "We could be drilling right here at home, 175 miles north of Oslo."
"By relying on the resources of our national parks, we could completely eliminate our dependence on foreign oil," Frye added.
The new park is the largest landmass to be given national park status by the Department of the Exterior since 2003, when the DOE established the George W. Bush Honorary Desert Habitat in the regions formerly known as southern and central Iraq.