24. OUR NATIONAL PARKS ARE IN TROUBLE
the United States has 50 national parks, the four percent of land area they represent
falls far short of providing adequate habitat for many native species of plants
and animals. By comparison, despite its size and crowded conditions, Japan has
set aside nine percent of its total land for national parks. Due to powerful development
forces and resource-exploitation lobbies, the U.S. has not added appreciably to
its national park system in recent years. There are still unique ecosystems that
remain unprotected, such as the Midwest tallgrass prairie, Mississippi bottomland
forest, and tropical islands of the Florida keys.
Even the existing parks
are too small and scattered to provide necessary habitats and buffer zones for
indigenous species to thrive. Condors no longer fly over Sequoia National Park,
fewer than 30 cougars remain in the Everglades, and just 200 or so grizzly bears
still live in Yellowstone. These are a few examples of wild animals, already endangered,
who are finding it difficult to survive in the cramped confines of their respective
parkland habitats. In 1987, the Reagan-appointed President's Commission on American
Outdoors, delivered a report that was expected to side with the developers but
instead pleasantly surprised environmentalists. One recommendation was that the
U.S. spend $1 billion a year to acquire more park land and to protect 2,000 sections
of rivers and streams by the year 2000.
The report with its unexpected recommendations
was shoved under the table by Reagan and has yet to be considered by the George
(I am an environmentalist) Bush administration.
Ecologists also point to
rampant development activity reaching right to the boundaries of many national
parks as a further urgent need to modernize national park policy to include consideration
of buffer zone acquisition around park lands.
Another recommended policy
change is to move away from thinking of the national parks as little more than
recreational sites for tourists, and acknowledge and support them as crucial ecological
savings accounts. Given the steadily increasing U.S. population, intense development
pressure, and higher park attendance as stressed urbanites flee the concrete canyons
for open space, park land acquisition should be a top national priority. Yet,
this issue has received very little attention from the federal government or from
the mainstream press.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: TERRIL SHORE
SOURCE: UTNE READER 1624 Harmon Place Minneapolis, MN 55403
DATE: November/December 1989
TITLE: "U.S. NATIONAL PARKS IN TROUBLE"
AUTHOR: LYNETTE LAMB
COMMENTS: Many readers will be surprised to discover that a
small and crowded country like Japan has set aside more than twice as
much of its total land for national parks than the United States has.
Author Lynnette Lamb suggests why most Americans are unaware of the
extent of the problems that have befallen our national parks. "The
national mainstream media rarely covers the national parks at all unless
it is through "event-centered" news, such as the Yellowstone
fire of 1988 or some backpacker getting mauled by a Grizzly bear in
Glacier Park." She notes that outside of the alternative press,
she has seen little discussion of how the report of the Reagan-appointed
President's Commission on American Outdoors was ignored because its
recommendations sided with the environmentalists rather than with the
developers. "Also there has been almost no mention of the unique
ecosystems, such as the Florida Keys, tall grass prairie, etc., that
are still going unprotected and unincluded in the national park system,"
Lamb adds. She also points out that something probably could be done
about it if the media were to provide more coverage of the plight of
our parks. "Our country takes great pride in its geographical beauty
and diversity, our people love the outdoors and treasure their national
parks. Most people would be in favor of increasing the size and number
of national parks if they were aware of the situation and the threats
to the parks and various ecosystems," she concluded.