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What should the Obama administration do with the national parks?

The Obama administration has promised change, and has been soliciting ideas from around the country on how best to provide that change. When it comes to the National Park System, does the new administration have an agenda?

Indeed, little has been said by the new administration about the national parks -- other than that Senator Ken Salazar, the nominee for Interior secretary, acknowledges the National Park Service could use billions in additional funds to tackle backlogged projects.

And at, the web site the Obama team erected to garner public thoughts on needed change in the United States, few thoughts have been voiced about the national parks. A search this morning turned up just 25 submitted ideas on how the administration should approach the national parks.

Some are obvious -- create more national parks, "take your vacations in national parks," better fund the parks -- but there also are some that are not so obvious and which might even be inappropriate for the park system. For instance, a suggestion (attached below) from the Marin (California) Agricultural Land Trust calls for the national parks to be a showcase for "sustainable agriculture."

In 2016 the National Park Service will celebrate its one hundredth anniversary, a century of public homage to its designated National Parks, places of outstanding beauty and natural phenomenon. Many of our parks are in a unique position to demonstrate a better way to grow food; to serve as model farms and gardens for millions of visitors; and to lead the nation toward growing safe and healthy food with fewer negative impacts on our global environment. Our national parks can preserve significant cultural landscapes and further our national interest in educating the public to appreciate locally-grown, healthier foods.


Model farms and gardens within our parks are in a unique position to offer a better way to demonstrate best management practices to both visiting growers and the general public. Ranches can demonstrate innovative grazing practices, pasture improvement techniques, invasive weed management, even improved animal husbandry practices. They can work effectively with University Extension Services, and provide practical demonstration projects as well as certification programs. Having a close relationship between parks and surrounding communities provides opportunities for cooperative programs to flourish between local land trusts, and other non-profit organizations and the Parks. In Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, preservation of the park’s rural landscape and farming traditions has recently been recognized as a priority. It is energizing the whole area including the opening of seasonal markets for high-quality food and crafts.

Park farms and gardens can be an inspiration to the visitors and the millions of children that visit each year. Parents can learn to make more informed purchasing choices. Children can see where their food comes from. They can see it grow and be harvested. They can learn to care about healthy food. They can learn the good values that working on the land can provide. Gardens within the park can participate in local farmers markets or even create their own farmer’s market. They provide a wonderful tie between the community and the Park.

Now, perhaps this idea might be better applied to the Agriculture Department, but it's an idea just the same about the role the national parks could or should serve in the country.

You can comment on the ideas already posted on this site, or submit your own from this page.


I understand this problem is small in the grand scheme of park system finances and management. This may not be a widespread problem but I imagine thousands of visitors have similar sentiments, which relate to conduct in polite society. I found my visit to Glacier National Park significantly and negatively impacted by noisy vehicles. In my case it was motorcycles/choppers with loud exhaust pipes. Their negative impact was made when arriving and leaving illegal parking outside hotel front doors, as well as throughout the park. Their noisy presence interrupted many quiet settings as they passed my area, even when I was down trails. Their permitted presence seems incongruous with some of the tenets the park system stands for. Many states have statutes against exhaust modification to loud pipes but are difficult to enforce because of their complexity and required equipment. If there are national park statutes against noisy vehicles I saw no indication of their successful enforecement. I suggest a simple audible/distance for idling and pass-by driving be established so that park exclusion and fines may be imposed by park staff on violators. A similar audible/distance practice is in use in some states to enforce against noisy car stereos.
Thank you.

You raise a good point, and it's one that the Park Service is aware of. Indeed, for a few years now technicians have been measuring ambient sound levels at various parks to try to get a fix on what is natural and unnatural as well as to measure decibel levels.

They've actually done some work at Glacier, and in their discussion the park managers saw fit to open the narrative with the sentence, "We live in a world of over-stimulation."

Further done in the discussion they add:

The value of this resource has become increasingly more important as it becomes threatened. Glacier National Park still retains much of its natural soundscape, but "noise" (defined as the unwanted intrusion of sound) is becoming ever more prevalent and, increasingly, recognized as a management concern. The type and amount of development around the periphery of Park will largely dictate the future condition of the soundscape. Increases in traffic and construction within the Park add to manmade noise and aircraft operations over and near the park are becoming a growing issue. Scenic helicopter rides that originate outside the park boundary intrude on the natural soundscape over a wide area, particularly affecting hikers and backpackers.

Soundscape management has become an important management issue at Glacier Park. Any significant degradation of the natural sound environment deprives park visitors of the chance to connect with and appreciate the natural scene. Opportunities for escape from the noise and from the hectic pace of modern life are becoming increasingly aware.

Things definitely can be too noisy still in Glacier and elsewhere in the park system, but managers are aware of the problem and are working to develop solutions.

There are actually quite a few "model farms" in the National Park System, in addition to Cuyahoga Valley, there are also farms at Grant-Kohrs Ranch, Lincoln Boyhood, the LBJ Ranch, Piscataway Park, Oxon Cove Park, and the Claude Moore Colonial Farm on the GW Parkway.

Is there a list of National Parks that are participating in the program of sustainable agriculture

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