Parks & Politics

It's a double edged sword really. On one half, we want to celebrate our government for creating the first National Park Service in the world ( with the Organic Act of 1916 ). Setting aside giant blocks of land to be managed "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations" is a big deal, and a model copied by other countries around the world. But, where is that line drawn between "enjoyment" and "unimpaired"? It's left up to interpretation, and that interpretation is different between political parties.

Snowmobiles in YellowstoneYellowstone has been at the center of this political battle for years. One side says that to allow more enjoyment of this precious resource, we should let in fleets of snowmobiles in the winter, build new roads to isolated spots in the park, and widen existing roads to allow more cars through. The other side says that the added noise and pollution would destroy the very thing that makes the Park a destination.

So, who wins? Currently, a political appointee Paul Hoffman ( who was once a congressional aide to Dick Cheney ), has recently rewritten the NPS Management Policies to allow more off-road vehicles, to lower air-quality standards, and strip away language about preserving the parks' natural soundscape. The rewrites have upset many people, and they are currently under congressional review. Those that work in the parks have a difficult time speaking out against the changes, for fear that they may lose their jobs. Todd Wilkinson of the New West has a very detailed two part article covering the subject: Part I, Part II.

"Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left"
~Aldo Leopold

Some Background: NY Times Editorial