Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Guardian series: The threat to America's national parks

Public lands are an American birthright like no other. Managed by the government and held in trust for the people, they range from celebrated national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Everglades to vast western forests and deserts, Pacific coral reefs and Atlantic seamounts. Yet now their future hangs in the balance.

Alastair Gee reports for The Guardian:

Amid dangers from the Trump administration and climate change, sites including the Grand Canyon and Zion national park are facing yet another threat: ‘massive disrepair.’

At Zion national park, a popular trail has been closed since 2010. At the Grand Canyon, a rusting pipeline that supplies drinking water to the busiest part of the park breaks at least a half-dozen times a year. At Voyageurs, a historic cabin collapsed.
The National Park Service is the protector of some of America’s greatest environmental and cultural treasures. Yet a huge funding shortfall means that the strain of America’s passion for its parks is showing. Trails are crumbling and buildings are rotting. In all there is an $11bn backlog of maintenance work that repair crews have been unable to perform, a number that has mostly increased every year in the past decade.
“Americans should be deeply concerned,” said John Garder, senior director of budget and appropriations at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The National Park Service, he argued, is hamstrung by a lack of resources and is in “triage mode”.
Today the Guardian is announcing a major expansion of This Land is Your Land, our series investigating the threats facing America’s public lands.
The Ingersoll Lodge after its collapse, at Voyageurs national park. Photo:: National Park Service
National parks are just one part of an unparalleled system, managed by the government and held in trust for the public, and spanning over 600m acres of forests, deserts, tundra and glacier-covered peaks, as well as historical sites such as the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. They are integral to American life: an ancestral home for Native Americans; a retreat for vacationers, sportspeople and hunters; a source of grazing; and an economic engine. Yet their future is uncertain.
Earlier this month 10 members of a National Park Service advisory board, which had promoted issues such as encouraging more minority visitors, quit en masse, complaining that the new administration was unwilling to meet with them and was not prioritizing the parks.
The Trump administration has signaled that it thinks protected areas are too expansive, and recently shrunk two national monuments created under Barack Obama and Bill Clinton –
Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah.

Meanwhile advocates have raised concerns that the Department of Interior, which oversees many federal lands, is staffed with lobbyists for the energy industry. Even absent such issues, climate change, privatization and energy extraction risk changing the face of the country’s public spaces forever.
The Guardian will report intensively on these protected places, covering the threats they face, the diverse people who use them, and their critical environmental and economic role in American life.
Read the full story and see link to get full series

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