National Park

We still have a chance to save our national parks

The Biden administration launched its America the Beautiful plan to save public lands.

(Nikki Boliaux | The New York Times) Hikers take in the view from the top of the Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park, Utah, November 23, 2020.

Can national parks be saved?

It’s a strange question, isn’t it?

But our national parks risk being loved to death. While the nation is still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, there is an ever increasing demand for open spaces and national parks.

In many ways, this is a wonderful problem, but high levels of visits lead to overcrowding, which threatens resources and diminishes the visitor experience. The question now is how to ensure that more visitors can enjoy our incredible public lands without harming the very resources that bring people to parks.

A little history :

The idea of ​​national parks in the United States dates back to Abraham Lincoln, who transferred the Yosemite Valley to the state of California during the Civil War to “be held for public use, resort and recreation.” .

In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed an Act of Congress that made Yellowstone the country’s first national park “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

In 1916, the National Park Service was created, with an emphasis on resource conservation, reserving parks to “conserve and maintain the landscape, natural and historic objects and wildlife found therein. enjoyment in that way and in ways that will leave them intact for future generations.

I am grateful that we have a administration that has demonstrated its faith in conservation, environmentalism and the protection of our irreplaceable resources. The administration launched its America the Beautiful Plan, a decade-long challenge to conserve, connect and restore the lands, waters and wildlife we ​​all depend on. One of the key principles includes pursuing a collaborative and inclusive approach to the use of our parks and public lands.

The Home Office encourages visitors to visit lesser-known park sites and other lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, to combat overcrowding. And, admirably, public land managers at all levels in Utah – local, regional, state, and national – are also looking for ways to encourage public uses on all public lands.

In addition, we recently celebrated the first anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which established the National Parks and Public Lands Heritage Restoration Fund to provide much needed maintenance of critical facilities and infrastructure in our parks. national. Zion National Park will use these funds to modernize visitor facilities, including the South Campground, a critical need given the extremely high levels of visitation.

GAOA has also permanently and fully funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to the tune of $ 900 million per year to invest in conservation and recreation opportunities across the country. This means that funds are available to expand our national parks, increase public access and ensure that our park lands are not at risk of incompatible development that could adversely affect scenic views, water quality and to wildlife habitat.

In Sion, LWCF funds are needed to protect 50 acres in the Cave Valley portion of the park. Securing this reservoir will not only help protect the wilderness of the park, but potentially provide additional access for visitors to this wilderness. and adjacent BLM land, providing more space and access to the large number of visitors who flock to the park.

So the short answer to the question “Can national parks be saved?” ” is yes. But a lot remains to be done.

We need to ensure that parks are adequately funded and have the staff to handle crowds. We need to protect the park’s resources but ensure that the visitor experience is not diminished. And it would be extremely helpful to have a National Parks Service Director confirmed by the Senate to help run the agency and ensure that our parks can be saved.

The value of public recreation can be measured in dollars and cents, but the real value comes from what we leave for future generations. Congress and the White House must prioritize our national parks and public lands and take action to ensure they are protected.

Donald falvey is a former superintendent of Zion National Park and a current member of the Coalition for the Protection of American National Parks.