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Reader Participation Day: Which Works Harder for National Parks, A Republican or Democratic Congress?


With the general election less than a week off, the Traveler is venturing into perilous territory by delving into politics. Still, the question begs asking: Do you believe national parks are better off with a Republican-controlled Congress, or one with a Democratic majority?

On its face, this seems like an easy question to answer. After all, former U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, a Republican from California, didn't appear to be a big fan of national parks, and at one point supposedly joked about selling off units of the National Park System or at least opening them up to mining.

And then there was former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, a Republican from Utah, who wouldn't have minded if Great Basin National Park were jettisoned from the system.

But the late-Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyoming, was an ardent supporter of the national parks and worked to see funding for the Park Service increased. His memory lives on in the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park.

And U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, can't be overlooked either for his support of the parks. He didn't think the Bush administration, with Fran Mainella at the helm of the National Park Service, needed to rewrite the agency's Management Policies back in 2006, has championed legislation to clean airsheds over parks, and opposed the so-called "Road to Nowhere" in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Of course, this question should be qualified by specifying that it applies just to the current colors of the Republican and Democratic parties. Teddy Roosevelt was a member of the Grand Old Party and was quite a conservationist, and President Nixon endorsed the Endangered Species Act.

So, with the prospect of the control of Congress changing hands in next week's election, which party do you think would do the best for the national parks as the National Park Service approaches its centennial in 2016?

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Just speaking from old experience, I remember clearly the feelings of doom and gloom among NPS old timers every time a Republican president was inaugurated.

And when Richard Nixon shook my hand and said, "I'm always glad to meet a FOREST RANGER," I knew he should be impeached.

This is an excellent question, however, elections are not just about what is good for one special interest, they are about deciding who will govern the country well. After visiting a number of our most treasured parks this summer, I was astounded at some of the infrastructure conditions I found. Maybe we built a building using geothermal heat in Zion, but the roads are atrocious. Instead of investing the 2 different stimulus bills into rebuilding a worn out infrastructure in both the parks and the rest of the country, a Democratic controlled Congress and Presidency whittled away historic amounts of taxpayer dollars to their cronies for frivolous expenses like unneeded new runways at tiny regional airports that probably shouldn't even be operating and tattoo removal machines. I do not think Republican or Democratic voters would have been nearly as incensed by the spending if we had something to show for it as in FDR's WPA programs that gave us the Zion tunnel and performed countless other infrastructure improvements and creations. Bottom line, as a nation, we have more money to spend preserving our parks when our economy is in better shape and all you have to do is look at the map and see that Democratic controlled states like NY and California are in the worst economic shape while GOP controlled states like NJ and TX are flourishing.

And as for who cares more about the parks? I will put my money on the folks who actually get outdoors like Mike Huckabee. I know of no other First Ladies who loved the parks more than Laura Bush , who hiked in them annually with longtime friends and featured the parks in the White House Christmas festivities.

While many on the far left like to demonize Republicans and their care of the environment, the truth is that many Republicans, like many Democrats, enjoy the outdoors and want to protect our treasures, but they know that balance is the key to preservation, not extremist activism.

The Democrats have clearly been much more supportive of the parks. Other than Theo Roosevelt, who was most often at odds with his party, and Harold Ickes, who served in FDR's adminstation, there have been very few Republican champions of the national park system. Which isn't to say that Democrats don't have to be constantly pushed by their constituents.

To Pittsburgh in the Parks,

It's too bad Laura Bush didn't head up Interior instead of Gail Norton. (Although it's hard to imagine Laura Bush rivaling Lady Bird Johnson's affection for the parks.)

I have no idea which political party would be better for the national parks, but if Great Basin National Park is ever scrapped, I may just lock myself in a room and cry for a week. What a terrible loss that would be to this country.

However, I think you've posted a bunch of examples over the past year or two with politicians on the D side intervening in questions that I think should be addressed by park ecologists and biologists on questions like fish stocking, elk management, etc... It may be worse with the other side in control, but I feel obliged to point out that dems like to play politics with the parks as well.

Also working hard for the parks should include not just supporting the parks with funding, but broader issues, such as working for climate change solutions.

@MikeD - man-made climate change is based on economics, not science, and the economics involved are suspicious. I am sorry you have bought into the lie about man-made climate change. There is more hard evidence for cyclical climate change that is more closely linked to solar and volcanic activity than pollution or carbon emissions. A great case in point is the fact that the whole in the ozone layer has been repaired. that didn't gather a lot of attention for obvious reasons. Furthermore, the PDO has cooled and we can expect cooler winters as soon as 2011-2012. How do we know? It's cyclical.

Regardless of our differences, there are many things members from both sides of the aisle can do to promote and preserve the parks, and let's hope those we elect next week have that vision.

Pittsburgh in the Parks: "I am sorry you have bought into the lie about man-made climate change. There is more hard evidence for cyclical climate change that is more closely linked to solar and volcanic activity than pollution or carbon emissions."

Not sure about that. And certainly not according to the National Academy of Sciences. (And I'm not sure what their motivation would be for lying, or how that lie would register in the science.)

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