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Traveler's View: Psst! Our National Parks Are In Danger


Park advocates need to rise up in support of the National Park System/NPS

During the past six months, the outlook for the National Park System has grown decidedly darker than it had been. Threats to the system's natural resources have grown with the Trump administration's attacks upon environmental regulations, proposed staffing cuts will be numbing if implemented, and there's a heightened prospect of creeping privatization.

Today, in the wake of the National Park Service's 2016 centennial and a record visitation of more than 330 million to the parks, there's an ominous trend of actions by the administration, which has a GOP-majority Congress to push them through, that would negatively impact the parks.

  • The president's budget proposal calls for a $1.5 billion cut to the Interior Department, and a nearly $400 million cut to the National Park Service budget. Though the proposal is likely dead upon arrival, will park proponents in Congress be able to block any cuts made by appropriators?
  • President Trump has directed the Interior Department to review, and possibly rescind, regulations pertaining to oil and gas drilling in units of the National Park System.
  • The administration is looking to expand offshore energy development, something that could impact national seashores.
  • In the coming weeks, there's the possibility that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will recommend changes in 27 national monuments that the president told him to review for their appropriateness.
  • Interior Secretary Zinke has said he wants to turn management of campgrounds on public lands over to private companies, saying the Park Service is good at cleaning toilets, but not running campgrounds. What else might he be thinking of privatizing? Will he be open to pitches that the parks need more lodging? What is his reorganization plan for the National Park Service?
  • President Trump wants Congress to repeal the Clean Water Act of 2015, which governs which streams and lakes are protected by the Clean Water Act of 1972. Currently, according to the National Parks Conservation Association, "(M)ore than half of our 417 national park have waterways considered 'impaired' under the Clean Water Act, meaning they do not meet healthy water quality standards for activities like drinking, fishing and swimming."

Frequent readers of these pages are well aware of many, if not all, of these issues. But not everybody is.

In June I had the opportunity to stand in for Dr. Alfred Runte in Zion National Park to address groups from Tauck Tour's Spirit of The Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest tour, a 10-day trek through Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park organized with the help of Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. My talk revolved around the many issues confronting the national parks today: Underfunding by Congress, extremely low morale, privatization, worker harassment issues, the maintenance backlog, crowding in the parks, and more.

Surprisingly, these issues were news to more than a few of those in the audience.

Park advocates need to be discussing these issues more often, and to an increasingly larger network of friends and associates. Congressional representatives should be reminded -- often -- of what the national parks mean to America and Americans. Letters are good, phone calls can be better, face-to-face the best. 

Share with your friends so they can stay on top of issues confronting the National Park System, sign up for our weekly e-letters so you don't miss a story, and make tax-deductible donations to support the work of the Traveler and the National Parks Conservation Association, a great ally of the parks.

Make no mistake, these are trying times for the National Park System. 

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"likely", "possible", "possibility", "might" ... all histerical speculation and none of which would be "threats" or "numbing".  But hey, it is an editorial and opinions are approppriate in such a post.   In my opinion illegal immigration, high non participation in the work force, massive debt, high taxes, over regulation and a failing healthcare system are "trying times" for the country and if not addressed, there will be no National Park System. 

It's not hysterical, it is factual, as evidenced by the documented attempts to make them happen, i.e. the legislative efforts, and they are all threats. The problem with threats is if you don't take them seriously because they're not existant, when they do materialize, it's too late. We can't really undo destruction, and for some aspects of the natural world, you can't replace it either. 

If you want to help out with illegal immigration, support more rangers and staffing in border parks. Regarding the "high non participation in the work force" we are at one of the lowest rates of unemployment in roughly the last 30 years, based on numbers from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. High taxes pay for infrastructure and defense, and if you really want to get some cost savings, starting with the largest spenders is a better bet than one of the smallest government expenditures. The entire Dept of the Interior is 8% of the federal government's budget. Regulation helps prevent Flint, MI incidents from happening all over the country, and you're right about the healthcare system needing help. But it's more than just a money thing for that issue. The way we look at healthcare needs to be revised. Like putting a greater emphasis on healthy living, needing less doctors visits, and maintaining a higher level of physical activity, something you can do in open, engaging public lands that create business opportunities in their surrounding areas, attract guests from all over the world (legally), and lots of other things.

One of the most important aspects of national parks is that they give us something meaningful and enjoyable and make life a little more worthwhile. 

 it is factual,

"possibly", "likely", & "might" are not factural, they are speculation

support more rangers and staffing in border parks. 

If their role is to stop illegal immigration, I am all for that but I don't know that NPS rangers have that as part of their job description

we are at one of the lowest rates of unemployment in roughly the last 30 years,

Primarily because of the low paricipation rate - due either to frustration or incentives not to work

starting with the largest spenders is a better bet

No starting with the unconstitutional spenders or wasteful spenders would be a better bet, but the reality is every instiutuion will have to participate

The way we look at healthcare needs to be revised.

Agreed, we over test, over diagnose and over medicate primarily due to the ease to sue and the seperation of payer from recipient.

Regulation helps prevent Flint, MI incidents

Apparently not.  But they do add cost, stifle growth and destroy jobs.  

In response to EC, 7:53.


Roger on that, EC.  The park culture is a bit myopic on the world outside. 

The hysteria is amazing. The drama queens are ruling the roost here.  Give the man some credit for doing it the proper way and going through Congress.  Giving you a chance to let your voices be heard.  For whatever reason, you loved it when Obama just rode shotgun over it all and created law using Executive Orders because his environmentally damaging polies would have never gotten thru Congress.

Your political bias needs to be toned down and reflect on all the damage done by the previous administration that never went thru congress.  Did we forget the oil and gas exploration that was planned by the Obama Admin and canceled by the Trump Administration?  Yes.  


With Trump0, you fear "the possibility" "Maybe doing this"  Maybe doing that" - Yet you seem hysterically happy that Obama just did it without asking your thoughts or opinions.  An Executive Order here, another one over there, and Poof, the parks would be full of oil rigs and pipelines without a whisper of dissent.

Did we forget the oil and gas exploration that was planned by the Obama Admin and canceled by the Trump Administration?  Yes. What about the proposed mining returning to the Grand Canyon after Obama's secretary of state sold them to a Russian company?  

The scary thing is all the under the table deals Obama and Clinton had planned for after her assumed coronation that we have yet to find out.  Yet, you still mourn her losing the election to a man who is using the laws to govern the country by.  What a unique concetp isn't it??

Final Note: What you want to call "EPA Rollbacks" are actually cancelation of Obama's damaging Executive Orders created to bypass Congress, and pay back large campaign donors.  Example: Ivanpah Solar Project.  Environmentally damaging, yet financially rewarding to the owners.  Obama's EPA created new laws with no oversight, disregarded other laws and fudged the facts to get it built then calling it the future of green energy.  


Thanks, Kurt, for your spot-on view of the potential damage on the horizon.

To MrMark and ecbubk and other Trump-lovers.... get real.  You're so blinded by your Trump love and fear of people different from you that you can't see anything else. 

Fear of people different than me?  If you mean people that want to take money from others, that want to destroy economic and job growth for no real benefit, that want to take billions of American dollars and pay them to foreign countries so they can continue to pollute then yes I do fear those "different" people.  

The hysteria is amazing. The drama queens are ruling the roost here.

No truer statement has ever been posted here. 

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