This year’s US Presidential election campaigns are not mentioning anything about public land preservation. Did Teddy not teach us anything? We need to hold a constant vigilance when it comes to safe guarding our national treasures. I realize there are pressing events and circumstances that need to be spotlighted and to the lay person our Park System appears to be running smoothly. Is it? What are the challenges we are facing within our Department of Interior?
When we think National Parks we often let our minds go in the direction of wide open spaces and natural landscapes filled with rock outcroppings, forest, wild animals, lakes, geysers and waterfalls, but there is so much more to the whole picture. The Park System caters to a wide variety of historic and cultural resources as well, like colonial Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and old town Boston to name a few, along with the Everglades and New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. These parks hold our heritage and world history at their hearts.
The problem, as is often the case, is lack of financial resources. Money is not as available to highlight and offer the gifts of these areas to be appreciated to their fullest by the public. For example, collections of valuable museum artifacts have not even been cataloged. Cataloging would be great, but there isn’t even enough space to store the wealth of historical pieces that are at the whim of wherever they can find space. The stories that these pieces tell about our country and our people are being hidden away because there are not enough funds to display them for public appreciation and education.
There is more to park management than might meet the eye. When looking in from the outside we may not notice the infrastructure of a historical monument that is critically in need of attention. The natural erosion and decay of many buildings which stand as symbols of the making of this country need constant attention and upkeep. Many are crumbling and in need of repair. As of this writing the Park System could benefit from $9.5 billion – with a “b” in funds to bring hundreds of our country’s treasures to the status they should be. Places like Ellis Island, Independence Hall are visited by millions annually and the wear and tear needs to be off-set by constant care. Care that takes a lot of money.
Most of us get to enjoy our National Parks as a much deserved destination for an American road trip. Families may plan for years to make Yellowstone or Yosemite the highlight of their upcoming summer vacation. Packing the car or trailer and heading towards one of our parks may prove to be easier than once a visitor has entered the park itself. Miles of roads within the parks are posing real dangers to drivers. The ruts, crumbling and general disrepair of many roadways has forced some closure to several previously accessible routes. At present acres of hiking trails are off limits for the sake of keeping trekkers safe, and even the shuttle buses that cover longer distances are breaking down. It’s estimated that half of the $9.5 billion would be spent on transportation infrastructure.
The environment of a park’s eco-system is constantly under scrutiny. Certain activity within a large park is prohibited, such as mining, clear cut lumbering, oil drilling. However, along the borders of many of the thousands of acres of land set aside for the preservation of Nature, these activities have full reign. As a result, they can pollute the water, air quality and other vital aspects that keep a natural landscape pristine and safe. It’s a constant balancing act for the caretakers to monitor and deter harm done by outside influences. If left unattended the consequences could cause irreparable damage and we could lose something which may take decades or even centuries to recover.
We need to Elect Teddy – or in other words elect to be an active participant in preserving our National Parks by being a loud voice in an otherwise quiet wilderness.
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