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CQ Researcher Provides Overview of NPS Woes


    "The National Park System is threatened by pollution, invasive species, climate change and encroaching development. Moreover, budget constraints are making the national parks and other units in the system not only more dangerous to visitors, but also less satisfying and less educational, some observers warn."

    That's the opening sentence of a report on the condition of the national park system just released by CQ Researcher, a division of Congressional Quarterly. If you've been following my blog, or other media stories on the national park system, you know that that opening is more a summation of what many have been reporting for some time rather than a breaking bulletin.
    Still, the in-depth report by Tom Arrandale, a freelance writer based in Livingston, Montana, adds to the ever-growing bed of literature that maintains that our national park system is hurting. Last April the Government Accountability Office issued its damning report on conditions in the parks, in early June there was a lengthy article by Vanity Fair that largely chronicled the fight over revisions to the Park Service's Management Policies, and about the same time The Associated Press ran a series of stories that chronicled the variety of ailments the park system is grappling with.
    In October, of course, National Geographic Magazine added its considerable weight to the matter with several stories dissecting problems within the park system.
    Reports on the plight of the park system are not limited to traditional media, though. In May the National Park Service, without fanfare, quietly released an in-house report on air pollution in the parks that seemed to be more "sunny" than conditions merited. As timing would have it, in August, the non-profit National Parks Conservation Association offered its own, much more dire, view on the state of air pollution in the parks.

    Arrandale's report nicely compiles the various and wide-ranging factors that are influencing the current state of the park system, touching on entrance fees, development encroaching upon parklands, ecological concerns, "nature deficit disorder" among our younger generations, the intrusion of motorized recreation, even how political winds are threatening not only the financial plight of the parks but the very culture of park managers.
    Is the arrival of all these stories merely happenstance? Did all these editors and writers sit down together earlier this year and decide, "This is the year we have to take a good, hard look at the ills of the national park system"?
    Or, rather, is the convergence of all these stories merely coincidental, the result of the media simply beginning to sit up and take notice of what's befalling our national parks?
    Of course, it really doesn't matter what the impetus. What matters is that someone beyond editors, writers and readers take notice. It certainly would be nice if Mary Bomar, in her new roll as NPS director and with the "honeymoon" period that comes with the promotion, distributed clippings of all these various reports to both Congress and the White House and laid out a strong, convincing argument that something needs to be done, something that doesn't hinge on private developers or higher entrance fees.
    You can find Arrandale's report here, but it will cost you $15 to purchase.


I recall hearing a Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species biologist talk about her job, etc., a few years ago. Toward the end of her talk, before she played a heart-rending video of some of the more well-known endangered species, she told her audience that she couldn't just come right and tell them to write their elected representatives. I often wonder how many NPS employees take a similar position while speaking to park visitors, i.e., urging them to take action while not coming right out and saying so.

I do it all the time -- much to the chagrin of my significant other, who is convinced I'll either be fired or blacklisted for doing so. Unfortunately, some people just don't get the not-so-subtle hint. In response to something the park put out recently highlighting our budget shortfalls and what was at stake if we don't find more funding, I received a letter saying "you should lobby the Congress for more money!" We can lead people to the obvious but they need to take the action. -- A national park superintendent

My libertarian streak says that those who use the parks should bear more responsibility in paying for them. For Yosemite, the city of San Francisco pays the same amount it did in the 1920's for the sole use of the water from the Tuolumne River and the electricity generated by the dam that drowned the public land of Hetch Hetchy. But when the administration budgeted an increase in those fees, our Senators screamed. As for the visitor's, those who really can't afford to travel to the national parks shouldn't be forced to subsidize those who have the leisure time and money to enjoy the parks. One California state park actually makes a profit. That's Hearst Castle. Those profits then help out the less visited, less popular parks.

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