Wasatch Environmental Update; America’s National Parks Besieged

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Wasatch Environmental Update for September 6, 2015

By John Worlock, Member SOC Board of Directors

“America’s National Parks Besieged”

One of the most significant achievements of the American democracy is the creation of our National Parks. The National Park Service Organic Act, signed by Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916, formally established the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior to oversee the administration of the nation’s National Parks.

This was not the actual birth of the idea of national recognition of our special heritage, as Yosemite Valley had been so identified by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and Yellowstone by Ulysses Grant in 1872. But the date of August 25 functions as the official birthday, and so one year from now we can expect much commotion celebrating the centennial of our National Parks.

We approach this anniversary with concern and trepidation. The Park Service has been engaged in an advertising campaign, encouraging us to visit our National Parks. This, together with demographic trends, has resulted in notable increases in visitation. During the past summer, many of the popular National Parks have seen double digit percentage increases. There are reports of automotive traffic jams and serious lack of parking space. In addition, of course, there is crowding on the popular trails and the best scenic overlooks. We can just imagine the disappointment when one has to jump up to look over the shoulders of earlier arrivals at Old Faithful Geyser…. or when the crowds of tourists have already chased away the bison, the bears and the wolves, for which Yellowstone is famous.

The second reason for concern is that recent Congresses have failed to appropriate sufficient funds to pay for the upkeep of the tourist facilities and for the personnel to deal with the wildlife and the crowds of visitors. The National Parks Conservation Association, a non-profit private advocacy group, estimates a backlog of over eleven billion dollars in unfunded maintenance.

There is a small glimmer of hope on the horizon: The recently proposed National Park Service Centennial Act would provide 100 million dollars annually for three years, to be matched by private donations, specifically to address the maintenance backlog and to connect the nation’s youth to our National Parks.

Let’s get behind this important venture by urging Congress to authorize its full funding. To learn more about the N.P.S Centennial Act click HERE.

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