Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy 100th birthday, National Park Service!

Today is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, a day close to my heart not only because of the many years I visited Yosemite during my youth but also because I was a Park Ranger at Channel Islands National Park 30 years ago.  I could go on, but someone expressed the importance of the U.S. National Park System better than I did, President Obama in his Weekly Address: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service.

In this week's address, President Obama commemorated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and encouraged Americans to "Find Your Park."
Another famous person celebrating today's anniversary is Bill Nye, who talks national parks, climate change, and the 2016 election with CBS.  He put all of those together in these two paragraphs.
We want to preserve our parks and the 100th anniversary is an appropriate time to remind everyone their significance and importance. You know, when you vote this November, you should vote to preserve our parks -- it’s another line item in the federal budget, another thing for the government to do. I want everybody to realize that once you “find your park,” you will find an appreciation for the importance of the parks.
You have to say to everybody: “vote.” I’m not telling you for whom to vote, but please take the environment into account when you vote...If the election goes to the candidate who is in favor of addressing climate change and preserving the environment it will move in one way, but if it goes the other way, it will be very difficult -- it will lower the quality of life for billions of people. Unite[d] States has to be a world leader when it comes to the environment.
Follow over the jump for two more examples of politics and the national parks.

First, CNN asks Are we letting our national parks go to ruin?
Our national parks are the envy of the world. And the superintendents and their staff are stupendous. Yet due to budget constraints, we're treating these sacred places terribly.
But most of the park service's problems come from congressional indifference. Due to funding shortages, the agency has a $12 billion backlog in deferred maintenance. That is a high price for sure. But to continue playing ostrich would be disastrous.

A bipartisan congressional coalition should spearhead a great national effort, with the help of Fortune 500 companies, to pay this bill off as the cornerstone of the National Park Service centennial.

Everybody is looking for the new moon shot that will unify our country. Helping preserve our treasured landscapes is both doable and meaningful. My vote is to bring the private sector and federal government into an unprecedented effort to expand and properly maintain our national parks and historic sites.
If we really love our national parks, as millions profess on the eve of the centennial, then we need to care for them properly. To turn a blind eye on our own "rightful heritage" is a telltale sign of America — not just our national parks — in ghastly decline.
Yes, the state of the national parks fits right in with this blog's theme of decline and collapse, and the increased attention to their maintenance works as a solution to stave off both.

The Guardian tells the tale of The political crusades targeting national parks for drilling and exploitation, which is worse than neglect.
The challenges facing Theodore Roosevelt national park are emblematic of a fresh struggle for the soul of national parks. The parks, “America’s best idea”, have to define what they are for and whom they serve. Once-simmering tensions are starting to pop.

“The attacks on public land have become more visible and increasingly agitated, it’s got more muscle in recent years,” said Lynn Scarlett, chief operating officer of the Department of the Interior through George W Bush’s presidency.

“My discussions with Congress used to be about practical things, whether funding was enough,” she said. “It wasn’t like this. I didn’t find this general tenor of discussion that was anti-federal land and certainly not sentiments that were anti-national parks.”

There is a new crusade by some lawmakers, dubbed the “anti-parks caucus”, to unlock more public land to drilling and other development. This is a sharp divergence from the broad consensus forged since Roosevelt, a Republican, spurred the expansion of America’s network of national parks almost 110 years ago. This network now spans 412 federally protected places, including 59 national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite as well as hundreds of battlefields, monuments and historical trails.
That's the bad news.  Here's the good news.
While the political landscape has tilted, public support for national parks remains rock solid. It’s almost impossible to find an issue that 95% Americans agree on, but polling suggests this is the level of support for federal government protection of national parks.

Separate polls show a hefty majority of voters would be unhappy if their representatives stripped protections from public land. A record number of visitors – almost 305 million – gazed at the vistas of Yosemite, Yellowstone, Gettysburg and other NPS properties last year.
There is hope, if the U.S. Congress listens to the American people.  As a Crazy Eddie, to say nothing of a former frequent visitor to the parks as well as a former NPS employee, I have to share that hope.

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