COOLED On January afternoon this year, retired National Park Service director John Jarvis traveled to Point Sea Reyes National Seashore in California to study the implications of what would be the longest government closure in US history. Upon arrival, Jarvis discovered that a colony of approximately 60 elephant seals had captured parking at Drakes Beach. Some men who can grow up to 6000 pounds and are known as "beach masters", stumbled on cars as a sign of aggression.
As a rule, park workers and associate professors keep seals in the bay, but due to the shutdown and a controversial decision, to keep the parks open with the skeleton staff that ran despite the last long stop, there were not enough workers to keep them, closed during this period, ”recalls Jarvis. "He just did his job." The scene was a good metaphor for the state of national parks in general: despite our incompetence – or indifference – to protect them, things continue to evolve.
If you have read the news over the past few years, you may have heard that our national parks are in crisis, are suffering from a lack of budget funds, overcrowding and poisonous instagrammers, trampling the landscape. That is all true. For example, during a stop, visitors used a smaller number of duty rangers to create illegal roads through the desert in Joshua Three. They left trash and human waste in heaps in Yosemite. In fact, they were out of control through some of America’s most valuable state lands.
Shenanigans was also among the widely publicized maintenance gap of $ 11.9 billion, which resulted in the destruction of infrastructure in some parks. The backlog is the result, in part, of a decade-long cuts in the NPS budget, a total of 17 percent over 10 years. President Trump recently proposed reducing it by another $ 500 million, which, according to Jarvis, is unlikely, but very promising. “This is the kind of budget in which, if there was a director,” which the Park Service had not had since Jarvis retired, a week before Trump’s inauguration, “he would go upstairs and say,“ Well, which of the following parks would you choose? How do i close?
However, all these terrible events hide a big reality: good news is on the horizon. If everything goes as expected, the law on the restoration of our parks and public lands will be implemented through Congress this summer, allocating $ 5 billion to the National Park Service to meet the most pressing backlog needs. These include the Grand Canyon’s flowing aqueduct, which was built in the 1960s, and destroyed roads in the Everglades National Park, the cost of repairing which will be $ 47 million. This figure is less than half of the total number of outstanding work, but not everything on the list is urgent. (One of the park employees compared this with how much of your improvement list should actually be done right now.) If the bill is passed, experts say, he will make a noticeable difference and start managing the parks in the right direction.
Another problem that gets a lot of attention, but which is often discussed in a negative light, is overpopulation. Indeed, attendance is at an all-time high. In 2015, for the first time, more than 300 million people visited the national park. Since then, this amount has been exceeded every year and is likely to be exceeded again this year due to low unemployment and reasonable gas prices.
But NPS is becoming increasingly innovative with ways to cope with these crowds. In Acadia National Park in Maine, which is the seventh most popular park in the country with 3.5 million visitors per year, people are often turned away due to insufficient parking at the most popular sites. “The status quo does not work here anymore,” says David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia. Thus, the park examined and then revised the transportation plan over a three year period. From 2021 onwards, guests can reserve parking spaces on Cadillac Mountain and a sandy beach. Zion has a free and efficient bus system, like Yosemite, and other parks make similar changes to cope with a visitor’s own boom.
The story “to love our parks to death” contrasts sharply with another significant fact: the satisfaction of visitors to the entire system remains extremely high. Experts say with a sigh that overpopulation is not a problem of resources, but a problem of distribution. Backcountry is still mostly empty, even if the park roads are blocked. “I could take you to the Yosemite Valley on July 4, and give me 15 minutes, I can pick you up on my own,” says Jarvis. "You just found out where to go." Or you have more rangers in the state to help people figure it out.
“It's not as bad as everyone says – the sky does not fall,” says Mike Gotye, head of the Nez Perce National Historical Park in Idaho. Recently, in Yosemite, where Gauthier spent seven years as chief of staff, the Merced River first opened for skiing on a white boat, and thanks to efforts to restore the bighorn sheep returned to their alpine habitat. Similar initiatives have been introduced in the NPS.
This also happens at a time when public land is experiencing a surge of support from local Democrats and Republicans. The law on the restoration of our parks and public lands will be the result of the most significant bill on nature conservation over the decade – the Dinghella Act, which supported the parks and passed it in February: 92–8 in the Senate and 363–62 in the House of Representatives.
“There are no bills that go through this way,” says Kristen Brengle, vice president of government affairs at the Association for the Protection of National Parks. "But it shows the power of parks and public lands." As well as the fact that private financing has increased: until 2013, the largest year of fundraising for the National Park Fund (NPF) was $ 25 million. This number will increase fourfold over the next four years, and donor interest remains high, says NPF President Will Shafrot.
“We are continuing this dichotomy,” says Mark Butler, former manager of Joshua Three. “Political actions were cut off from public preferences.”
This does not mean, of course, that everything is perfect, or that they cannot become worse. But with constant support, the future looks bright. “I think that people should inform their members of Congress that national parks are important,” said Phil Francis, chairman of the Coalition for the Protection of National Parks of America, which includes former NPS officers. “And they want national parks to be taken care of, going from 1/16 to 1 percent of the federal budget, which they get now, to 1/15 from 1 percent, or from 1/14 to 1 percent. It would be of great value. ”
So even More people visiting the park this summer. “You do not love something to death. You love it forever, ”says Jarvis. "And if we can save this love with the American people, then I think the future of Park Service is really good."