Election 2008: Fearless Forecasts, Foregone Conclusions, and Prescient Prognostications

With San Francisco-based Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi empowered beyond her wildest dreams, it’s now a foregone conclusion that Golden Gate National Recreation Area will be “upgraded” to Golden Gate National Parks. The Presidio is virtually certain to get an extra dose of federal goodies, too. Wikipedia photo.

The campaigns are over, the results are in, and it’s time to consider what the 2008 elections portend for the National Park System. Traveler highlights several foregone conclusions, makes a couple of fearless forecasts, and invites you, the readers, to share your prognostications.

With Barack Obama as President-elect, the Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, and the Republican Party in disarray, the safest of all the foregone conclusions is that federal government policies and practices will drift (perhaps veer?) to the left of the path they've followed in recent years. Since strong support of environmental protection laws is a hallmark trait of the left, we can reasonably expect renewed federal zeal for curbing pollution, preserving wildlife habitat, and developing sustainable alternative energy sources. All of this bodes well for the national parks, which have suffered grievously from outside threats and are overdue for a break.

Another foregone conclusion is that the Bush administration will redouble its efforts to weaken environmental protection laws and regulations before the window of opportunity closes. Count on it; the next six weeks will see a veritable torrent of rulings, decrees, and pronouncements whose net effect will be to reduce constraints on resource extraction and wealth generation. This does not bode well for the environmental qualities that the national parks exist to protect.

Now, a couple of fearless forecasts. While these don’t approach the nearly 100 percent certainty of the above-cited foregone conclusions, they do have a comfortable feel about them.

* Nancy Pelosi, now perhaps the most powerful Speaker of the House in modern times, is a San Francisco-based politician. She has dearly wanted to see Golden Gate National Recreation Area “upgraded” to Golden Gate National Parks. (Yes, that's right, plural parks). You can now consider that a done deal. It is a major understatement to say that I don’t trust Ms. Pelosi, who is a whole hell of a lot further to the left of center than the American public, but I do understand the power that her position commands. She will get what she wants in “small” matters like this GGNRA redesignation thing. Go ahead and bet the farm on it. And if you are a Presidio booster, you should be wreathed in smiles. Good things are headed your way.

* Here’s another fearless forecast. Although Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania, never should have been made a national park, and deserves to be abolished at the first available opportunity, this will not happen for at least another four years. In fact, we should not be surprised to see Steamtown re-invigorated with increased funding and other goodies. Vice President-elect Joe Biden is from Scranton, the city that has become a symbol for the Rustbelt America that the federal government is supposed to rescue. Enough said.

* How will the Centennial Initiative fare? That's a very good question. While this bus has left the station, there haven't been many riders on it. Congress failed to fully fund the program -- President Bush wanted Congress to toss in $100 million a year for the next decade, but it only came up with $50 million -- and with the country's current economic malaise, how likely is President-elect Obama to toss the National Park Service an additional $100 million in its budgets? The feeling here is that this initiative will fade ... but hopefully be replaced by the centennial legislation a bipartisan group of senators offered back in April or a similar proposal introduced to the House back in July of 07.

* Yellowstone's snowmobile saga will add yet another chapter, this one with an Obama administration calling for a phase-out of the machines in favor of snowcoaches.

OK; it’s your turn. Tell us what you think the election results mean for the national parks


OK; it’s your turn. Tell us what you think the election results mean for the national parks

I don't think they mean too much. The new administration and Congress are going to be focused on the financial meltdown, and national parks won't even been the tiniest blip on their radar. As the national debt balloons and the dollar depreciates, look for national parks to be overlooked by the federal government.

A great question.... Here's a few of my guesses!

1. Science will no longer be disrespected.
2. Some sort of public works bill will be passed to put people to work and to rebuild public infrastructure in parks and forests.
3. The Endangered Species Act will be restored to its original scope... at least.
4. The Secretary of the Interior will actually be an environmentally concerned person!

"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; one must take it because it is right. ......Martin Luther King, Jr.

An obvious method to support the economy in form of small and mid-size businesses is investing in infrastructure. Highways, bridges, and the like. In this the new administration might look at the New Deal. Working on the backlog of infrastructure maintenance in the parks might become a part of a larger program. It could work all over the country and involve almost exclusively small and mid-size building businesses. And it would be a relatively cheap but highly symbolic strategy if the new president wishes to portrait himself and his politics as "green".

A public works bill could spell economic disaster. "Hoover admitted that his public works program, which had nearly doubled Federal construction since the start of the depression, had failed. It was very expensive, costing over $1200 per family aided..." A new public works could have terrible effects on public confidence and could lead to further weakening of bank credit. Money printed out of thin air would increase inflation and the national deficit. Wages must fall in proportion to the decline of commodity prices, in order to eliminate unemployment. Government employment at existing high wage rates would perpetuate the unemployment problem.

It wasn't public works that got us out of the Depression. In fact, public works may have prolonged the Depression.


I am, by nature, an optimist. I think the election means that the new administration will be represented by people who are not relentlessly anti-environment. That does not mean that I think that money will fall out of the sky and land in the budget of the NPS. It does mean, however, that superintendents will be able to count on the support of staffers in the Interior Department. There will, I believe, be greater confidence in the points of view of NPS employees. There will be better working relationships between career employees and political appointees. I think there will be greater reliance on the results of sound science and research upon which to base planning and management decisions and fewer attempts to "doctor" these results to support narrow partian interests. I also believe that the comments of the public that accompany most environmental and cultural planning processes will not be ignored or dismissed as they often have been in the recent past.

I am hoping that transparency will be the hallmark of the new adminstration. I am tired of the secrecy, the late Friday afternoon press releases announcing major decisions, and the catering to special interests that seemed to be the order of the day at the DOI. I am hoping that I don't have to read anymore Inspector General reports
on scandals related to oil and gas royalties or influence peddling at the highest levels of the Department. As a former DOI (NPS) employee, those stories embarrassed me. We don't need any more of this kind of abuse of the public trust.

I was impressed by the dignity of the remaks by Senator McCain in his concession speech on Tuesday evening. As he urged, I hope that we can determine what the highest priorities are for the next couple years and work together to address the issues we face. If, in the process, we decide that some chronic NPS issues must remain unaddressed until later, we can at least be assured that the priorites were chosen based on urgency, not on narrow partisanship.

Rick Smith

I am not expecting a whole lot of change real quickly.. but am hopefully that the move to the left will result in better policies to protect our environment & endangered species. Stopping the economic slide I hope will be top on the radar.

OnDaRoad http://www.unpavedroadslesstraveled.com

LOL...you are all so funni...except Frank C.
Obama has ONE national park in his home state...and how many people of color visit our parks? Not many.
Frank C is right...there will be NO money to give. In fact, Bush offered up more to the parks in his last budget (Centennial money) than Obama will...as I said, I don't think The One cares much for nature, being from Chicago.
McCain has 19 parks; Palin 17 in their respective states.
There isn't much money to be had in this entitlement-rich government. And yes, it is ENTITLEMENTS (including welfare) and Fannie and Freddie...thanks to DEMOCRATS Barney Frank and Chris Dodd that has bankrupted us. NOT the war in Iraq. The money spent in Iraq is a drop in the bucket compared to entitlements.
Sad to say, McCain/Palin would have given more to the parks if any smidgen of money was available!

@ Frank C.: Come on, you point me to a paper on the New Deal by the Mises Institute to prove something? That paper is not analytic, it's not scientific, it is pure and simple ideology. The same ideology that got us into the mess back then and now.

Regarding the national parks this papers description of the New Deal and the Public Works is one sided and (deliberately) incomplete. It mentions that the Roosevelt administration noticed the short comings of the projects but it completely ignores that the programs were not carved in stone but used flexible and adopted over time to cover more people and more regions.

Contracts for local businesses under the New Deal were widely spread, from building the chalet at Oregon Caves National Monument to blasting a tunnel and building a paved road on top of Scotts Bluff National Monument in Nebraska to the parkway that was recently covered here on the Traveller. The CCC worked at and around Grand Canyon and in remote parts of the West such as Devils Tower NM.

Infrastructure has been neglected - remember the collapsing bridge in Minneapolis? Investing into it seems to be the most efficient way to support small and mid-size businesses. Invest in bridges, in insulation of public and private buildings, and in the maintenance backlog of the national parks.


It is not a "paper" by the Mises Institute, and you'd know this if you'd delved deeper. It is a book titled "America's Great Depression" by economist Dr. Murray Rothbard, a member of the same economic school of thought as Nobel Prize winner Friedrich Hayek. It's more than a "paper"; it is a treatise, as are Karl Marx's "Das Kaipital" and Charles Darwin's "The Origins of Species". "America's Great Depression" is one of the most thorough and meticulously documented accounts of the Fed’s inflationary actions prior to 1929, and I suggest you read the entire book before dismissing it as not being analytic or scientific.

You also really didn't counter any of the claims put forth with solid data; you just called it "ideology".

"Investing" with printed fiat money based loosely on foreign credit isn't really investing at all. It spells disastrous consequences for the economy. We've been "investing" in private banks, and look where that has gotten us.

Frank C-----you're howling in the wilderness with this crowd. Unfortunately the so-called "environmental movement" and supporters of wilderness are primarily composed of state worshipers who expectantly pray at the alter of big government to pass laws and enforce regulations that will save our earth from the filthy pestilence that is the natural result of unfettered humanity.

That this is the same savior government that is currently responsible for a million deaths in the Middle East, spends $10 billion a month on immoral war and has debased the dollar by 95% of its value against gold by inflating the currency to fund its evil machinations is consistently and conveniently side-stepped.

They'll tell you that their savior of the environment "is a totally different branch" of government and "it's not the same mindset at work" as the one we're using as an example. Really?

With the actual actions of their savior on unambiguous display I truly wonder where they get the idea that things are going to get a whole lot better now that their much anticipated Anointed One has been sanctified to enter through the gates of the sacred white palace on the Potomac.

I've got news for you my deluded friends things haven't even begun to get bad yet. You are about to witness the dissolution of the American Imperium and it ain't gonna be pretty. The national parks are not in good hands and the sooner it is realized the sooner they can be transferred to more capable and loving caretakers.

On Randy Newman's latest album "Harps and Angels" he sums it up quite well:

The end of an empire is messy at best
And this empire is ending
Like all the rest
Like the Spanish Armada adrift on the sea
We're adrift in the land of the brave
And the home of the free


Uh, Beamis...those "million deaths" in the Middle East are Al Qaida...the enemy.
What many do not realize is that not only did we free the Iraqi people from Saddam and boys, we also successfully prepped the battlefield to destroy Al Qaida...Iraq was a sort of "vacuum" to bring them in so that we could kill 'em, thus President Bush's call to "bring it on"...that quote worked quite well to get them into Iraq and right square into our warriors' sights!
My son proudly serves in Army special forces.

It must be very important for you to believe that.

I pray that your son comes home alive and in one piece.

I support the troops. I want them all to come home.

you're howling in the wilderness with this crowd

Perhaps so, but your howling helped me better understand economic theory, and I hope to help others, even if my efforts only reach one person. That's the great thing about discussion on NPT: It's a free market of ideas.

But to clarify an earlier point I made about "investment" (even if I'm just howling into the wind--I thank Kurt for giving me that opportunity), I turn again to Rothbard:

In recent years, particularly in the literature on the "under-developed countries," there has been a great deal of discussion of government "investment." There can be no such investment, however. "Investment" is defined as expenditures made not for the direct satisfaction of those who make it, but for other, ultimate consumers. Machines are produced not to serve the entrepreneur, but to serve the ultimate consumers, who in turn remunerate the entrepreneurs. But government acquires its funds by seizing them from private individuals; the spending of the funds, therefore, gratifies the desires of government officials. Government officials have forcibly shifted production from satisfying private consumers to satisfying themselves; their spending is therefore pure consumption and can by no stretch of the term be called "investment." (Of course, to the extent that government officials do not realize this, their "consumption" is really waste-spending.)

Government can "improve" the infrastructure of the NPS (and the country), but it cannot "invest" in it.

Iraq, the economy, and the environment(including NPS) ARE connected. It is not so much a "left vs right", but right vs wrong, intellect vs stupidity. For the past eight years(more actually) stupid has ruled.

On economics: Paul Krugman's "The Great Unraveling" has a columns going back to the first Bush administration's blunders, and before. "Bad Money" by Kevin Phillips spells out in more complex writing the failure of politics as economy, and the myth of "capitalism" under neocons that got us into trouble, for a long time. Barney Frank actually has spelled out how they tried to save Fannie Mae, and the public, but were shot down and shafted by Republicans, deregulation, as even Greenspan admitted this week "how could we have known", well very easily, "don't be stupid". Fareed Zakaria does a very good job in "The Post American World" in not spelling out the fall of America, but the RISE of the rest of the world, and how poorly this has been interpreted since the Reagan administration. Reagan inherited a national debt under a trillion dollars. REPUBLICAN spending and policies now have that over $11 TRILLION. "Private" debt is over $60 TRILLION, due to predatory lending policies, and unregulated inflation, especially in housing.

On Iraq, prior to our invasion there was NO Al Qaeda in Iraq. Our operations against them in Bosnia and elsewhere have been thwarted by stupid decisions by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is a mess not so much because of too few troops, as too little intellect. WE by the way, as Charlie Wilson knew, CREATED the Taliban, and through inaction or outright stupidity, Al Qaeda. If Greg Mortenson's philosophy in "Three Cups of Tea" had dominated our foreign policy, instead of the military industrial complex(DON'T get me started), we would have been much better off. My son has been in our "areas of interest" with regard to the "war on terror", and stupid dominates. Using $68,000 Hellfire missiles to do the job a bullet can do for a couple dollars, is an example of how expensive, and stupid we've been. Especially when lousy intelligence has you bombing weddings instead of people with weapons intent on using them. A friend just back from Iraq on leave last week has "interesting" observations.

These tie, believe it or not, directly to the environment, AND preservation of our National Parks and public lands in the fact that we must stop ignoring science, reality, real values, real priorities, real math and economics, and the quality of leadership we select.

I am encouraged and optimistic that we ARE on the threshold of intelligent leadership, that will listen to SOUND advice, and proceed with logic, instead of dogma, as a guide.

It is NOT going to be easy, nor quick, but our most critical resources and lands have been, like the "economy" and "wars" beset by deregulation and MISmanagement by idiots. To be any less direct in the assessment would be an injustice to the public.

I have hope.................................Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm not much

Net result: wild increase in wilderness designation at the request of the Sierra Club, which will result in banning mountain bikers from hundreds of miles of trails that they currently enjoy.

Other than that, any new policy can't be worse than the old one.

I think that while policies might improve, tight economic times will prevent much investment in parks or wild lands.

Whatever you think the impact of public works was on the economy, it supported people's spirits, and kept some fed. So if times get real bad, we will likely see public works again. But whether it would be a CCC-type program that built a lot of wild infrastructure - well, I'm skeptical.

One other thing. If we do move strongly in the direction of renewable energy, we might have clearer skies in some parks.

PS - The Depression ended with WWII, which had deficits roughly twice those of mid-1930's programs. So maybe they just didn't spend enough?

" It is a major understatement to say that I don’t trust Ms. Pelosi, who is a whole hell of a lot further to the left of center than the American public..."

You've just earned my undying respect with that gutsy statement, Bob. I had you all wrong. You're willing to take on politicians from both sides of the aisle. I was about to take your site off my home page, but instead I'll make it mandatory morning reading (even if I disagree occassionally and flame you in a comment).

I'm sure Ms Pelosi has her good points, but she is extremally devisive and provides one of the greatest challenges to President elect Obama's stated goal of bringing our country together.

I live near (and recreate in) the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and don't believe it warrants National Park status, although it should be protected as it currently exists. Being located in the San Francisco Bay area, a stronghold of environmentalism, I feel it's safety is ensured. For those who have never visited GGNRA, it is really a collection of small pieces within an urban environment. Some of the parts are extremely beautiful and others are merely isolated pockets of old military buildings. I would guess that is the reasoning for the plural designation of Parks.

Maybe I'm being silly, but giving a few acres of old warehouses (Ft. Cronkite etc) the same status as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and the Grand Canyon, doesn't set right by me. Even that elegant old fort, the Presidio, doesn't warrant that honor. National Park status should be reserved for truly awe inspiring gradear. Anything less should be a monument, wilderness area or recreation area.

G. Pinson: Well said!

I would go one step further and say that only those with "national park" status should be administered by the NPS. The other designations should be managed by different agencies or organizations.

Maybe with the new administration Delaware will finally get a unit in the National Park System.

When it comes to Steamtown, I'd endorse another left-leaning policy.... "Mend It, Don't End It..."