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Reflecting On The "State Of The National Parks" In The Wake Of National Park Week


Like the images found in the 'Great Gallery' of Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, there are just some things in the National Park System you need to ponder. Kurt Repanshek photo.

With National Park Week having come and gone, and the kickoff of the summer travel season still a few weeks off, it seems a fitting time to raise some questions about the overall state of the national parks.

For instance:

* Why do different units of the National Park System show differing levels of concern when it comes to endangered and threatened species?

For example, why does Cape Hatteras National Seashore use 1,000-meter buffers to keep off-road-vehicle traffic from nesting piping plovers, a threatened species, while Padre Island National Seashore officials don't prohibit ORV traffic on their beaches when Kemp's ridley sea turtles, the most-endangered sea turtle, come ashore to nest? This question is particularly relevant in light of a recent photo from the seashore of a Kemp's ridley hunkered down -- and fairly well camouflaged -- in a tire rut on the beach.

And why do Big Cypress National Preserve officials feel comfortable with permitting 130 miles of ORV routes, and who knows how many miles of secondary routes, in prime habitat for the Florida panther, possibly the most-endangered mammal in North America? Not only did a variety of conservation groups condemn this decision, but so did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

* How is the National Park Service addressing scalping of campsites obtained through Making news recently was word that some Yosemite National Park campsites were being sold for $100 or more on sites such as Craigslist. With more and more park campgrounds going into the reservation system, will this just feed a bidder's war for park campsites? Can this be solved as simply as stating reservations cannot be transferred?

* Is the National Park Service an overly insular agency, one where the culture holds itself above outside criticism? That's the take put forth by Paul Berkowitz, a former special agent for the Park Service who just came out with a book examining what went wrong with the agency's investigation of alleged embezzlement at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (reviewed elsewhere on the Traveler today). Unfortunately, top Park Service officials decline to discuss this issue, citing ongoing legal matters stemming from that investigation. But can't the two be weighed separately? After all, the issue of insularity dates back more than a decade and didn't arise with the Hubbell investigation.

* Is there a more fascinating philosophical debate currently in the park system than the issue of whether the Park Service should infuse some new genes into Isle Royale National Park's wolf population? Among the obvious issues are 1) the Park Service's general position to let nature run its course; 2) the wilderness setting, and 3) the world's longest running prey-predator study, now in its 53rd year.

* Should the National Park Service be concerning itself with healthy food in the parks? There's no mention of that in the National Park Service Organic Act, and it's not like the agency's plate isn't already full. (Really, no pun intended.) Many park concessionaires already are moving -- if they haven't already -- to healthier entrees. And really, you don't have to buy that chili burger with extra cheese....

* Is there any more riveting geology story in the National Park System than the hot spot that keeps Yellowstone National Park's thermal features boiling, bubbling, and fuming?

* While most national parks suggest you keep your dogs at home, and as officials at Golden Gate National Recreation Area are grappling with an effort to rein-in free-running dogs, canines were celebrated the other day at Prince William Forest Park. While it's certainly great to see the Park Service showcasing canine teams that do invaluable work on search-and-rescue missions, would you say it was also appropriate to bring in commerical operations -- dog resorts, dog spas, and even dog magazines -- to showcase their services for dog owners?

* In light of the vast, vast collections of historical, cultural, and natural resource artifacts and memorabilia that seldom see the light of day from storage in Park Service facilities, should the agency have one main museum facility that not only traces the history of the Park Service, but also offers exhibit space to rotate through for the public various pieces from its more than 110 million-item collection? The late Art Allen, whose lengthy Park Service career included a dozen years spent as chief curator of the agency's Division of Museum Services at the agency's Harpers Ferry Center, long advocated for such a facility.

* Appreciation has to go out to the search-and-rescue teams at Grand Teton National Park, who went into very, very challenging and dangerous conditions in a week-long search for two missing backcountry skiers.

Featured Article


Read it fully and understand that ORV's are not your only problem...

I especially like this section...

Government scientists are not above actually planting evidence to
support their anti-human beliefs. In the fall of 2001 the U.S. Forest
Service found that seven federal and state wildlife biologists planted
false evidence of a rare and threatened Canadian lynx in the Wenatchee
and Gifford Pinchot National Forests in the state of Washington. The
three U.S. Forest Service, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and two
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife employees planted lynx
fur on rubbing posts. The posts were installed to identify existence of
the creatures in the two national forests as part of a lynx habitat
study started in 1999. DNA testing of two of the samples matched that of
a lynx living inside an animal preserve. The third DNA sample matched
that of an escaped pet lynx being held in a federal office until its
owner retrieved it.[xvii]

Had the fraud gone undetected it would have closed roads to
vehicles. They would have banned off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, skis
and snowshoes, along with livestock grazing and tree thinning.
Representatives Richard Pombo (R-California) and John Peterson
(R-Pennsylvania), the chair communications chairman, respectively, of
the House Western Caucus, were especially critical of the incident in a
jointly released statement:

As Americans, we should have been astounded by the recent findings that
federal officials intentionally planted hair from the threatened
Canadian lynx in our national forests in order to impose sweeping land
regulations. But in truth, many of us who come from rural America have
grown accustomed to environmental activism prevailing over the rule of
law and over the best interests of families and communities.[xviii]

The guilty employees claimed they were not really trying to
manipulate or expand the lynx habitat, but instead were merely testing
the lab's ability to identify the cat species through DNA analysis. They
did not come forward, however, until after a fellow Forest Service
colleague had exposed them. “That would be like bank robbers taking
money from a bank and saying they were just testing the security of a
bank, they weren't really stealing the money,” said Rob Gordon,
executive director of the National Wilderness Institute.[xix]
Nonetheless, the story given by the seven guilty biologists prevailed,
and the guilty parties received no discipline — thereby encouraging more
fraud in the future.[xx] Representatives Pombo and Peterson were
aghast: “This lackadaisical approach to willful, unethical conduct is
unacceptable, and we see no credible alternative other than to terminate
the parties if there is convincing evidence that they knowingly and
willingly planted unauthorized samples.”[xxi]

Or even this one...

David Graber, Research Biologist with the National Park Service, graphically expresses this radical view:

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a
wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that
people are part of nature, but that isn’t true. Somewhere along the line
— at about a million years ago, maybe half of that — we quit the
contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and
upon the Earth…. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to
rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come

There is even a borchure handed out by the NPS because they were forced to by another lawsuit from another enviro group... This brochure trys to highlight the negative affects of the ORV's of the environment and even show the famous dead turtle to assist their propoganda campaign...

samsdad1, If you cite a website with obvious religious overtones, it's credibilty is instantly in question.  I am not saying who is right or wrong here, but your citation is just as biased as one that may be used from the NPS...just saying.

Typical enviro... Ignore the facts and point out the irrelevant.

Please notice I simply showing all sides what has gone on behind the scenes that no one on this site wants to show.

Behind the scenes from one perspective...

Could you provide a reference for the alleged comments of David Graber?  I have to think you are paraphrasing some statement of his, due to the lack of quotation marks.

" " oops there you go...

just kidding here is where it came from.

"In a 1989 Los Angeles Times book review, National Park Service ecologist
David M. Graber forcefully articulated the anti-humanism that informs
much of the environmentalist movement. "Human happiness and certainly
human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet,"
wrote Graber. "We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the
Earth....Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature,
some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."

also read these...

There are hundreds of these sites out there and I agree that humans are destructive, but were are also our own worst enemy. What I do not trust is someone of authority having these views and having at their disposal a way of carrying out their ideals.

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