Men's Journal says Parks are Exploited

Men's Journal, December 2006I'm not the kind of guy who typically reads the magazine Men's Journal. But, the current issue (December 2006) has a really good article about the current troubling issues surrounding the management of our national parks. Nestled between top-ten lists, like "Best Ski Bars" and "Best Epic Bike Rides", is a long article titled "The Plot Against America's Parks". The text of the article is not currently online, so for now you'll have to run to your local library or magazine stand to get this issue.

If you are thinking that you've recently seen a magazine article explaining the troubles inside the National Park Service, you have. National Geographic ran a piece back in October, and Vanity Fair even ran a long piece this summer. But this Men's Journal piece has more of an edge to it than these other articles.

The Men's Journal article immediately reviews the dangers visitors face when in-the-field park positions are cut. It then goes into an "no holds barred" look at issue after issue and builds an strong case for how the parks have reached such a troubling state. This is the first piece I've read in the popular press that reaches way back in time to say that "Wise Use" policy's hatched by James Watt and carried forward by people like Gale Norton and Fran Mainella are largely responsible for the mess the parks face today. Here's an excerpt for a section called "Malign Neglect"
The decline of the National Parks has not been merely a function of bureaucratic bungling or gross mismanagement, but a deliberate starvation diet that the public has only been made aware of thanks to a handful of brave whistleblowers. ... Here's how [DOI officials] have operated: First, cut budgets. Then as the parks realize they need to rely on more money from outside sources, gather private-sector interests that support new uses (timber cutting, energy exploration and extraction, motorized recreation), and present them as willing to lend a hand to "rescue" the parks from their financial woes. Next, coach these lobbies and corporations to say all the right things about parks -- about restoring our natural heritage, how parks are America's gift to the world -- and pledge to help spruce them up in exchange for concessions contracts, sweetheart sponsorship deals, more grazing or mineral rights, etcetera. Following this approach, park-conservation groups, rather than serving as allies, become a hindrance, so cast them as backward, anti-fun purists unwilling to consider opening parks to new uses or to prepare for the future.
The article covers a lot of ground from there. Rep. Steve Pearce makes a strong showing in the piece (claiming that the Park Service doesn't want visitors). But the article keeps going ... snowmobiles in Yellowstone, the Bison slaughter in Yellowstone, the Hoffman draft management policies, commercial threats, the American Recreation Coalition, the BlueRibbon Coalition, the Centennial Challenge, drug traffic, encroachment from garbage dumps, and even privatization at Ft Hancock ... all these topics and more are covered!

It's a long piece, but if you find yourself getting ready to fly somewhere this holiday weekend, get to the airport a few minutes early and track down this volume of the Men's Journal (it's got Steve Irwin on the front cover). By the time the plane lands in your hometown, you'll be wanting to write a check out to the NPCA or Wild Wilderness or someone to help stop this backward progress happening to our most treasured landscapes.
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Comments

Thank you fot the great write up. I also just read this piece in Men's Journal (Yes, I subscribe), and it encouraged me to email a lot of friends whom I thought my share my concern. I encouraged them to visit your site, as it was the only one I could find that posted frequent news on National Parks. (I sent you a copy via email, so you could see for yourself.)

How come South America and Mexico have a ParksWatch site, but the US has no comparable entity?
I can't seem to find the Men's Journal article on-line. Is there anyway to access it w/o actually going to the store to buy it?

Thanks for your blog. Keep up the good work.