The Park Service centennial celebration’s damage to the lands

The numbers behind the 100th year celebration of our overflowing parks.

 

This story was produced in collaboration with The Trail Posse, which focuses on the relationship between people of color and Western public lands.

While flashing back to an impossibly busy summer, Kathleen Gonder describes Bryce Canyon National Park as if it had been under siege: “We’re scrambling just to be able to provide infrastructure — and that means the basics, like clean restrooms and parking,” said Gonder, who is chief of interpretation at the Utah park famous for its colorful, spike-like geological formations called hoodoos.

At 56 square miles, Bryce Canyon is among the smallest of the national parks, but it currently ranks 11th in visitation. More than 2.3 million people, and counting, have flocked to the park. Sixty percent of that traffic happened between June and September.

Bryce Canyon certainly was not alone. Its yearlong 100th birthday celebration exposed the National Park Service — at least major, visible parts of it — as a system bursting at the seams.

The Park Service’s 413 units, which include not only parks, but also battlefields, memorials, parkways and seashores, are well on their way to a third straight record-setting year of attendance. Through November, they’d already plowed through the current record, set in 2015, of 307 million recreational visits, according to preliminary accounting. The agency’s 59 parks, which include national gems like Zion and Acadia, in Maine, are ahead of last year’s pace by 6.5 million visits, the equivalent of the population of Indiana. Thirteen of those parks already are over the 2 million mark in visitation; 11 reached that level last year.

Five national parks — Yosemite, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, and Glacier – have experienced increases of at least 500,000 visitors more than last year’s totals, according to preliminary figures. In Maine, Acadia falls just under that mark but almost certainly will join that group. Twenty parks already have seen an increase of at least 104,000 visits, the equivalent of cramming the entire city of Richmond, California into each.

And of the 22 national parks that will exceed 1 million visits in 2016, 17 are located in the West.

See a further breakdown of numbers here.

View from the main tunnel into Yosemite Valley.
Glenn Nelson

The extraordinary overcrowding has produced extraordinary responses. On Memorial Day 2015, the Utah Highway Patrol closed the entrance to Arches National Park because the line of cars waiting to gain access was over a mile long, creating a traffic hazard as it backed out onto the nearby highway. Zion National Park, also in Utah, is the 18th-smallest national park but will finish No. 6 in visits for the second straight year. Park managers and advisory groups are seriously considering visitation capacities.

Zion already has proposed moving and renovating its South Entrance Monument Site, a renowned park feature that is a favorite photographic backdrop for visitors. During the height of summer, visitors commonly wait in long lines to enter the park and board the mandatory park shuttle. Parking routinely is full in the park by 9:30 a.m. In Zion’s main canyon, overcrowding and adverse hiker behavior has created hundreds of unauthorized “social trails,”  the unplanned paths created by undesired and usually unauthorized foot traffic, equal to about 35 miles, according to John Marciano, a park spokesperson. There are 14 designated trails in the canyon, equaling about 15 miles. Angels Landing, the park’s most popular trail, has closed twice during the Park Service’s centennial year for graffiti-cleaning and the removal by helicopter of litter and human waste.

But such problems are a product partly of the Park Service’s making. The immense marketing push of the centennial celebrations were helped by an improving U.S. economy, and a period of lower gas prices. Utah produced a highly successful “Mighty 5” campaign that brought a surge in global visitation to Arches, Bryce and Zion, as well as the state’s other national parks, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. The increased visitation, combined with a mounting deferred maintenance ledger now up to about $12 billion, has stressed Park Service infrastructure and staffing. The question will be whether 2016 was an anomaly or a semi-permanent shift for which the National Park Service needs to contemplate dramatic measures.

“We want the Zion experience to remain special for every visitor,” said Jeff Bradybaugh, superintendent at Zion. “At the heart of the National Park Service mission is to conserve park cultural and natural resources in perpetuity. To accomplish both of these, we must resolve issues with crowding, traffic congestion, parking, safety and impacts to our facilities and resources.”

As for Yosemite National Park, this year has produced staggering increases. It almost certainly will top 5 million visits for the first time in its history, meaning an attendance increase over last year of at least 700,000. Though Yosemite is the 16th-largest national park, 90 percent of its visits take place in just a corner of the park, Yosemite Valley. It can become an extremely cramped space.

On its busiest days, a projected 8,000 vehicles flow through Yosemite, according to Scott Gediman, the park’s assistant superintendent for public affairs. Such volume can exhaust parking availability and produce gridlock despite an extensive, free shuttle system that operates year-round. Because Yosemite is so remote, it does not turn away visitors, but diverts traffic to less crowded areas, such as Tuolumne Meadows, outside the valley.

Yosemite has been preemptive in its planning. It has increased parking capacity, including a new large lot by Yosemite falls; made numerous road improvements, and expanded its shuttle service into the West Valley and El Capitan areas. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, which has been undergoing renovation since 2015, is scheduled to reopen this summer. The park likely will introduce a separate shuttle system. Further relief should come from a push for public transportation, YARTS (Yosemite Area Rapid Transit System), travel marketers highlighting the off-season appeal of Yosemite, and the park’s continuing efforts to manage public expectations.

But elsewhere, the swelling crowds can be devastating. Its most profound impacts are on wildlife that increasingly succumb to traffic-related deaths and on the sensitive landscapes that are strained and damaged. National Park Service staff struggles just to keep up.

What falls through the cracks when a park is under siege by dramatically increased visitation? Bryce Canyon’s Kathleen Gonder was quick to answer: “The quality of the experience.”

 

Contributing editor Glenn Nelson is the founder of The Trail Posse, which documents and encourages diversity and inclusion in the outdoors.

Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 12:16 PM
Last time I was in Yosemite in the spring, shuttle bus service was at best every 15 minutes. I agree with getting more people not to drive cars into the heart of parks, but the Park Service then has to improve service options. Yosemite has a lot of other issues, too, as I noted in a blog post after my first fall visit last year:
https://socraticgadfly.blog[…]yosemite-national-park.html
Buzz Burrell
Buzz Burrell
Dec 23, 2016 01:36 PM
Our Parks are absolutely not "under siege" as the author presumptuously say (there is no "military blockade and assault of a city or fortress"); rather, millions of people appreciate our incredible natural areas and really enjoy and benefit from being in them, which fundamentally, is a wonderful blessing. And the numbers cited are correct, so let's deal with that situation clearly and rationally. The language and tactics of fear worked all too well in the recent Election; I'm hoping HCN is better than that.
Charles Roberts
Charles Roberts
Dec 23, 2016 01:48 PM
The last sentence of the article says it all. This is what you get when you have an organization founded on the principle of "tourist entertainment."

The lofty mission statement notwithstanding, the NPS was created as, and remains, an entity that wants and needs as many inept tourists to coddle as possible, while decrying the burden.

What is described is exactly why many folks see NPS control of any area as a death knell for use, enjoyment, unimpairment and solitude. Put up a NPS sign and the hordes will descend upon places of which they otherwise would not take note. Their clientele apparently cannot figure out where to go or what to see unless it is an official NPS area, and the NPS holds their hands with guidebooks, lodges, etc. Whatever was special quickly is lost amid fees, an excess of niggling regulations and the ruination of the land by people, the majority of which never get far from pavement, overrunning facilities while looking for souvenir trinkets and passport stamps.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 01:57 PM
Buzz, no, he's right. They're under siege with aging facilities, that ever-growing repair backlog, an ever-growing funding deficit for that repair backlog and an NPS chief and current Interior Secretary who think neoliberal branding ideas are the best way to fill that funding deficit.

Besides my blog link above, I've seen traffic at the entrance to Arches spilling out onto 191. I've seen Mesa Verde essentially ruined in some ways by the Park Service's perceived need to put most of visitation there under guided tours. Then, we have things like people flying drones at Yellowstone, people so wilderness-clueless at Yellowstone they put a bison calf in their SUV because it "looks cold" and the Park Service has to euthanize it, and others who ignore clear warning signs at Yellowstone and try to make a hot pot pool into a sauna. (The water's acidity likely would have killed the guy even without his scalding heat.)

The state of Utah sees its three biggest national parks as money machines above all else. If Grand County could get Arches along with BLM land, it would do it in a New York minute.

And, per places like Yosemite, Buzz, these visitors are only appreciating a small slice of this beauty. Note what Glenn said about most Yosemite visitors going nowhere beyond the Valley. Many Arches visitors do little but car stops at Courthouse Towers, Balanced Rock, the Windows and Delicate Arch viewpoints.. (Thank doorknobs more of them aren't going over to Canyonlands.)
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 02:08 PM
While we're at it, I'm going to vent about the Bush Administration's elimination of the old Parks Pass and replacing it with the Interagency (all-access) Pass. Just another way of subsidizing BLM and USFS while letting them not charge fair value on oil & gas, and timber, leases. And, Team Obama never reverted to the old Parks Pass.
Buzz Burrell
Buzz Burrell
Dec 23, 2016 02:27 PM
Venting is what old guys do Steve, so no worries. And you clearly honor and respect the Parks, so when you've gotten out those pent-up frustrations about all these new people who don't know as much as you, and how things aren't like they used to be, maybe we could then discuss what could be done about the increased population of the world, and the need for them to get out and enjoy our natural world, like you and I have always done. Increased funding and planning certainly would be a start.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 02:55 PM
Got that one, Buzz. Increased population of the world? I have no answers, when India's BJP ruling party has as part of its policy an official push to pass China in population.

As for some specific parks? Without overcrowding it, I'd tell more people to visit Upper Yosemite. Or take the time to go to nearby Kings Canyon instead. I made my second trip to Lassen last year; set aside time for almost two full days.

And, in part, I'll blame the Park Service for that, too, for not promoting other parks more. And, also, for the average citizen for not wanting to go off on roads less traveled, if only on occasion.
Keri Nelson
Keri Nelson Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 03:22 PM
Quite a conundrum for sure Buzz...how to manage the increased visitation to the National Parks without sacrificing the mission of the NPS and protecting the quality experience we all deserve. The reality is the majority of Americans (and internationals for that matter), especially those who visit our NPS units, are not experienced outdoorsmen/women and do incredibly stupid acts in the eyes of us who are (as Steve indicates, and trust me I have first hand knowledge). But, as these are the majority of the voters in our country, we need these people to be able to experience and enjoy, aided by the NPS, our parks. The challenge in my mind is shaping that experience so that we are promoting the essential mission of protecting the vast majority of the park as unimpaired. I think you and I both know Buzz that some of the most spectacular locations in our parks see very few people, and this is how I would hope they remain. Personally I hate to see us build more and more infrastructure (parking areas, shuttle systems, etc.) just to jam more people in, creating a frustrating amusement park type experience. Is this really what we want out of our National Parks? So, is there a way we can manage the increased visitation, promoting the natural wonderment of our parks (all resources included) and instilling a sense of the necessity of protecting our natural environment, not just for the benefits it brings to humans...because as I mentioned, more and more the people who only make the door stop one day tour of our National Parks are the ones who will be making the decisions for the protection of all public lands and protection of our natural resources.
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 08:29 PM
I like that Buzz-seems like a lot of venting everywhere.
The parks are underfunded with less general revenue going to the parks than ever before. We got to maintain infrastructure.
Larry Glickfeld
Larry Glickfeld Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 08:37 PM
Can't have it both ways-- more visitors and less impact-- and what would help immensely would be keeping private vehicles out. Afterall, these are national parks, not national parking lots. Yosemite Valley may have shuttle buses, but that does little to lessen the effects of the millions of cars entering the Valley every year. The problem could be largely resolved by creating large parking facilities in surrounding towns, in the Sierra Foothills or Central Valley, e.g., Mariposa, Merced, Fresno, with regular (bicycle friendly) bus service from there to the Park, along with shuttle buses within the park. Not only would this keep private vehicles out, but would strongly discourage the RV set from even considering park visits. While anyone who desired would still be welcome at our national parks, their vehicles would not.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 09:22 PM
Oh, and when the Park Service buys new shuttle buses, they should look for all-electric ones.
Buzz Burrell
Buzz Burrell
Dec 23, 2016 10:39 PM
Great to see you chime in Keri - I definitely "trust you"!

Here's an interesting irony: People complain about crowding - ergo these are the same people who are contributing to it - because otherwise they wouldn't be there to witness it (NPS Rangers who are required to be around people are excluded from this example :-). Same as complaining about traffic in a city - to be aware of it means one is there contributing to the problem one is complaining about. The Parks to me are almost deserted - there are times I wish I would see another human! It seems to me backcountry use might even be declining in some places at the same time use is massively skyrocketing at the go-to locations.

But my personal experience doesn't matter - the numbers are what matter, and the NPS (and Keri!) have to deal with more people. I have to start by saying hoping millions of visitors go away is no better a plan than wishing for the good old days of 10 (20, 30, 40, 50) years ago (it's human nature to think everything was great at the time oneself first comes on the scene but has become screwed-up now, whenever "now" happens to be).

And I'll go further: I love seeing people visiting our Parks. Being in nature is the BEST. Therefor, to reserve it for myself would be flagrantly selfish. That millions of people are visiting our Parks shouldn't cause grief; it should create hope. And yes, most people never make it more than .5 mi from their car, but that's their choice not ours, and is .5 mi better than before. (And why complain? That leaves 95% largely open).

Personally, I think Impacts = CARS. People don't bother me a bit, and they barely bother nature, but cars and roads do. And commercialization is far worse than cars (Yosemite!), so the NPS could help their own cause dramatically by reducing or eliminating commercial enterprises. Eliminate commercialization and manage cars, and a large chunk of impacts are reduced. Anyone still bothered by too many people on the trails? Well, 95% of wherever you are (If you're out West) is still wide open, so rather than trying to kick everyone else out, better tactic might be for you to kick yourself further out into the backcountry.

See you there! (But probably not :-))


Larry Glickfeld
Larry Glickfeld Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 11:43 PM
No one goes to Yosemite anymore because it's too crowded there....
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 23, 2016 11:43 PM
Buzz, indeed on commercialization. Speaking of, and the recent concessionaire lawsuit at Yosemite, how an American Indian derived word like Ahwahnee, first given to a town, or a phrase like "Go climb a rock," or a name of a location unincorporated like "Badger Pass" can be trademarkable is a head-scratcher indeed.

++

Keri, indeed, I said I'm glad people have stayed out (by and large) of Canyonlands even with the massive increase at Arches. And have stayed largely away from Big Bend (though more should visit). And, outside of a few hot spots (pun semi-intended) don't visit much else in Death Valley. Etc.
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 24, 2016 07:54 AM
Worrying that there are too many people going out and enjoying America's natural and historic treasures misses the point. In this era of political divisiveness, "nature deficit disorder," and a crisis in obesity and other public health concerns due to a lack of connection with nature, we should be delighted to have so many people coming together in our National Parks. The National Park Service is doing its job to encourage citizens to get out and enjoy our parks.

The problem is not that we have too many National Park visitors. The problem is that we do not have enough National Parks.

The solution is simple — significantly expand our National Park System, especially in the East, South, Midwest, and near major metropolitan areas. We also need to expand existing National Parks and upgrade other areas to full National Park status, to protect their ecological and historical integrity from resource exploitation and development on adjacent lands.

There are hundreds of stellar potential parklands waiting in the wings. Most of them are already owned by the public, but they are urgently threatened by logging, livestock grazing, fracking, mining, pipelines, giant solar and wind power facilities, uncontrolled ATV use, vandalization of sacred and historic sites, and other development.

Transferring these lands to the National Park System would protect their natural and historic values, help to relieve pressure on existing parks, and bring national park opportunities to tens of millions of people who do not have major parks nearby. They would also diversify the local economies of many rural areas whose economies now depend on boom-and-bust resource extraction. We would also save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, which are now wasted on subsidies for resource exploitation on our public lands.

An article I wrote on this subject, which goes into more detail, can be found at http://www.earthisland.org/[…]/
Paul Maurer
Paul Maurer Subscriber
Dec 24, 2016 10:22 AM
As a former booth monkey ranger at the south entrance to Yosemite, I saw and dealt with the anger of visitors waiting for over an hour in 2 mile long lines. I always felt a major resolution could be a large parking lot and shuttle service from the closest town, Oakhurst, a few miles down the road. I think the merchants there would be happy with the increased tourist business, and Yosemite itself would breathe much easier without the huge automobile onslaught. People would have to adapt, but I think, would over time, enjoy a less impacted park more. There are other border communities for the other entrances that would also work well. The park service would have to buy a bunch of shuttle buses, but road maintenance and traffic cop costs would be less.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 24, 2016 10:23 AM
Michael: NO, or at least not until the deficit backlog and maintenance and repairs backlog is addressed at all current parks. Otherwise, you're just "stringing along" yet more NPS units, perhaps worse than now.

As for the preservation of these other areas? If they're wilderness-worthy, then let's push for wilderness designation within their current administrators of BLM, USFS or whatever.

Otherwise, there's plenty of national parks available for drive-by/casual nature tourists, which, as noted above, is still a large portion of the raison d'etre of the NPS.

Second, it's a myth that, especially if things like national seashores/lakeshores are included, that most Americans do not have an NPS unit, if not an actual national park, nearby. Off the top of my head, the only really high-population area not relatively close to an NPS unit of any note is North Texas, possibly followed by greater Detroit. Per Glenn's website, and per previous stories here, half the problem is getting minorities to use and visit the units already available.

Third is the related issue, to both No. 2 and part of No. 3, of equating preserved or semi-preserved nature to the National Park Service. It's a mindset we've got to get beyond.
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 24, 2016 02:00 PM
Steve,

Here are my answers to your responses to my comments:

- You say we can't afford national parks. Actually, the so-called The $12 billion National Park Service maintenance “backlog” is a phony crisis manufactured by anti-national park and public lands advocates and their allies in Congress. They have held back adequate funding of maintenance for decades, and then cynically lamented that this “backlog” is proof that we cannot afford new national parks and should privatize or decommission the ones we have.

In reality, this “backlog” represents a tiny portion of the federal budget and could be easily funded by Congress if it wanted to do so. For example, The Washington Post recently reported that a 2015 Pentagon internal audit found that it could save $125 billion — or $25 billion a year — mostly through streamlining waste in its business operations. If only ten percent of these squandered Pentagon funds were reallocated to the National Park Service, this would wipe out the entire “backlog.” and fund the parks for the next 33 years.

- You say BLM and Forest Service wilderness better than new national parks. Actually, this is not even an option in the East, South, and Midwest, which have virtually no roadless areas, but have large potential park areas. Moreover, non-National Park System wilderness areas are less protective, allowing extractive uses such as livestock grazing and hunting.

- You say most big cities have nearby national parks. Actually, in my comment, I wrote that most large metropolitan areas do not have a MAJOR national park unit nearby. This is true of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Kansas City, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Diego, Portland (OR). Small seashores, recreation areas, and historic sites are not major parks.

- You say minorities are not interested in parks. Actually, public opinion polls show that Latinos and African-Americans support environmental protection more strongly than whites. There not reason to believe that if national parks were more accessible visitation by those groups would increase.

- You seem to say national parks are not good at ensuring nature preservation. Actually, more than 52 percent of the park system — 43 million acres — is designated under the Wilderness Act. This is a far higher percentage than any other federal land agency.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 24, 2016 02:26 PM
Michael:

1. But, it's not phony because Congress refuses to budget it. So, until it DOES budget it, I'll continue to oppose the idea. Get that solved FIRST, please, then get back in touch with me. A wish and reality are different things.

2. Half true. That said, the NPS isn't always ideal with how IT manages wilderness.

3. I know that. I **deliberately** said "NPS units" not "National Parks" because I partially reject your premise. And, I'm going to elaborate on that here rather than a separate comment.

This fixation on "National Parks" is kind of like a fixation on "charismatic megafauna" that environmental groups, especially Gang Green ones, use to rope in first-time donors.

Related to that, you make every national park a "major national park" then you have no major national parks. Also related to this is the push by superintendents to upgrade national monuments to national parks. And, not all areas are equally scenic. There's a reason why major national parks are where they are.

Further along this line, this ignores the whole state park system. And some state parks, like Adirondack in New York, or Anza-Borrego in California, are major in their own right.

And, some of your geography is wrong, in my opinion. Phoenix, for example, is less than two hours from Saguaro. (And, though it's a national monument, it's a large one, and Phx is also about an even two hours or so from Organ Pipe Cactus.) Atlanta? Chickamauga has scenery, and fair size, and isn't that far, and the Smokies are less than 200 miles away, anyway.

4. Environmental protection is far from the same thing as "more national parks." Last I checked, the NPS was not part of EPA. As for minority interest in national parks? I'm just going by what I've seen, plus recent pieces here on NPS hiring. Obama has made hiring in many positions more friendly to the military, and the military's numbers are higher-minority than the general American population. I'm just making an empirical observation.
David W Hamilton
David W Hamilton Subscriber
Dec 26, 2016 07:04 PM
The underlying and unavoidable point that everyone is missing here is that the NPS system that any of us knew is in its last phase for many reasons...most of which are being missed in this discussion!..
.Did everyone here miss Trump Junior's (you know...the heir apparent!) comment in his HCN interview months ago in which he allowed that he and his circle did not visit "the Parks" anymore because they are too crowded and degraded (unlike safari hunts in Africa, one infers!). The Parks are a creation of and for the Plutocracy....and it has moved on!...the Parks are now about the Tourist Industry ...and entertainment for the Hoi Polloi...so.....the aim is further exploitation culminating in privatization...works for everybody...am I right!??...The Parks are now about "bucket lists" (does anybody out there actually know what that is!!??). They cannot be expanded because the selfie shot that counts in determined by the specific spot that "everyone" recognizes as "being there" ! Ther Parks are set to be totally commoditized ...as is the rest of our Public Lands for the Plutocracy...which is, itself, rapidly turning into a
Billion Dollar Baby Oligarchy ....subject to "The Deal" before our incredulous eyes!
Can't any of you see what lies before your eyes!?.....We are in a Brave New World in which all of these academic discussions are going to be beside the point! Get Real Folks!!....What does it matter how far?....the vacuum is leaving the jar!!
Mother Nature Bats Last!!
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 26, 2016 09:01 PM
David, that's ... interesting. It would certainly counter Michael's idea of "leveling," if you will. Also, per Michael speaking about Congress, while Utah's Congresscritters might want Utah's national parks turned over to the state, they would probably, in that vein, consider it even more important to block an Iowa Prairielands National Park or whatever.
David W Hamilton
David W Hamilton Subscriber
Dec 26, 2016 09:29 PM
Steve....In fact Utah does not want to pay for the upkeep of the Parks...it just wants to profit from their exploitation under the "Mighty Five" campaign....it works perfectly...Utah rakes off the profits and the rest of us foot the bill!!....How Trumpian is that "deal"?
Utah also will exempt Federal Land used by the Defense Department under the same scheme! The idea,..as DeVoto exposed it decades ago...is to liquidate Federal Lands to make money.....those Federal lands that are producing for the states at Federal expense (that is all of the rest of us!)...can proceed as planned! As T Rex once said..."It's a ripoff!"
Michael's concept of "leveling" fails the "bucket List" test.....It is the Parks that have cachet that are being beaten under foot.....Just like other "rock stars"....that is non-transferable! Just like the best damsites...the best parksites are already taken!
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 10:24 AM
Steve and David,

You are disregarding a number of important issues.

- The majority of potential parks are already public lands under “multiple-use” management. They have an existing budget, which spends taxpayer dollars on subsidizing logging, livestock grazing, fracking, mining, roadbuilding, and other industrial uses. This budget could be transferred to the National Park System along with the land, and devoted to protection instead of exploitation.

- Despite concerns that our parks are being “loved to death,” public use is primarily focused on a small percentage of well-known or easily accessible destinations. Most of the National Park System is not heavily visited. Many popular parks are predominantly designated or recommended wilderness, including Olympic, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains, and Everglades.

- National parks provide stronger protection than other federal, state, and private lands. More than 52 percent of National Park System lands are designated as wilderness. In contrast, only 19 percent of national forest, 14 percent of national wildlife refuge, and 4 percent of BLM lands are designated as wilderness. Less than 2 percent of state lands have this protection.

- Conservation biologists recommend that we preserve 50 percent of the Earth to avoid a sixth great extinction. Less than 6 percent of the lower 48 United States is now within national parks, wilderness, or other nature preserves. Several hundred million acres of undeveloped federal, state, and private lands and thousands of square miles of marine and inland waters could serve as nature preserves if designated as new national parks and wilderness.

- The 2015 Paris Agreement calls for dramatically cutting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, as well as saving forests, grasslands, and wetlands, which absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. National parks now sequester 17.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Expanding our parks would greatly increase this figure. One study estimated that halting logging on federal timberlands — which national park designation would do — would increase carbon sequestration on those lands by 43 percent over current levels and offset up to 1.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

- There is no factual basis for the claim that all of the best areas have already been designated as national parks. Hundreds of significant natural and historic areas across America could qualify for addition to our National Park System. Examples include Tongass (AK), Kauai (HI), Mount Hood (OR), Klamath-Siskiyou (CA, OR), Santa Ana-Grizzly Bear (CA), Rocky Mountain Front (MT), Book Cliffs-Desolation Canyon (UT), Owyhee (ID, NV, OR), Red Desert (WY), Gila-Blue Range (AZ, NM), Boundary Waters-Superior (MN), Land Between the Lakes (KY, TN), Mobile-Tensaw Delta (AL), High Allegheny (WV), and Quabbin (MA). Many existing parks could be expanded.

- Millions of acres of national monuments have been proclaimed under the Antiquities Act. However, since the 1990s, almost all monuments have remained under BLM or Forest Service management, leaving them vulnerable to harmful activities. These monuments could be transferred to the National Park System.
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 10:55 AM
With the population doubling in like 30-50 years and than possibility higher yet. These precious spots become more valuable to preserve and protect. Yes we can have different levels of protection and use. One mold doesn't fit all.
The future is now if there is a future for wild areas.
You only need to lose it once,but you have to protect it forever. A hard thing to do.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 11:04 AM
Michael:
1. Many such sites have "inholdings" problems worse than any current national park.
1A. Speaking of fiscal issues, the Park Service needs to address inholdings as well as the maintenance backlog before getting new parks. I'm sorry I forgot to mention this earlier, but it's an issue that needs addressing.
2. Conservation biologists may be "nice," but ... that ain't happening. Are you going to be one of the 5 billion or whatever people who volunteers to leave the planet? And, no, I'm not being snarky; it's likely that something like that would have to happen, especially if that 50 percent isn't including Antarctica.
3. I'm not arguing in favor of BLM national monuments. Here and elsewhere, I've opposed them. But, that's the neoliberal reality of today. Speaking of it and that $125 billion Pentagon backlog you mentioned earlier, the government COULD
A. Use that $125 billion to buy the whole state of South Dakota and deed it to me or
B. Nationalize our health care system to a British NHS.
Neither is actually going to happen, though.

Specifically, on your other suggestions?
Land Between the Lakes is no more "natural" than Lakes Powell or Mead. No. (And, speaking of, the Park Service should get rid of all the dammed lake National Recreation Areas. Send them back to BuRec or whomever.) Ditto on Quabbin and any other manmade lakes you're proposing be added to the Park Service.
Klamath-Siskyou? It's OK, but not what you crack it up to be, and has the inholdings problem.
Gila/Blue? Hiked all over there. More than OK, but arguably not national park status.
Book Cliffs? OK. Hiked bits of it in repeated non-NPS hikes in Utah. Not a national park.
Red Desert? OK. Not a national park.
Some of the others, maybe — IF they don't have inholdings problems.

Oh, and contra your earlier comment, you do realize most of the proposed areas on your list are not near major population centers?

Besides, per Dave, if you DON'T call these places national parks, they'll be less visited, less overloaded. Frankly, more and more, I'm OK with leaving the crowded parks, or at least the crowded areas of them, to the drive-through/pass-through tourists.

Remember, with Arches, when it was still a "National Moneymint," Cactus Ed warned precisely about this.
Buzz Burrell
Buzz Burrell
Dec 27, 2016 11:06 AM
I appreciate Michael's thorough and rational analysis, above. It's tempting to vent about how things are not as they were or how we want them (such as the author of this article did with his "under siege" fear-tactic), but a better strategy might be to pull together and support an objective plan that improves the situation. My summary:

1) The NPS isn't "America's Best Idea" (freeing the slaves was a lot better), but it was and remains a great idea that unquestionably is supported by a majority of voters.

2) The Parks need funding. And more people want to visit - this is a fact, so deal with it; trying to hold on to what it was like 20 years ago will not work.

3) People wanting to be in nature is GREAT - so to complain that others also want to enjoy what we have been enjoying would be taking curmudgeonly-ness to new depths. Nature is supposed to make us relaxed and better people, not uptight and conservative.

4) Commercialization is the worst; a hard line needs to be drawn here. Cars are the next, and IMO are the source of most impacts. The deer (and most flora and fauna) have no interest in an 24" wide trail no matter how many people are walking on it, but they are very impacted by a paved road with cars whizzing by toward large parking lots. Since exercise and obesity are huge national issues right now, encouraging passive recreation is an excellent solution.

Thank you all for the excellent discussion!
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 12:06 PM
Buzz, agreed. That said ... ban cars, and sorry, Michael, most those new visitors you want to come won't. They'll look for a parks video, or a Parks Oculus Rift virtual reality visit. When National Geographic, 10 months ago, does panoramic "photo illustrations" rather than actual photos of both American and international national parks, we've got a problem.
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 01:30 PM
Steve,

The popular wisdom that younger generations do not want to visit national parks is anecdotal and, I think, erroneous. However, even if it were true and throngs did not visit, there are other important reasons for expanding national parks. We do not argue against designating wilderness based on how many people will visit, and the same should go for national parks.

National parks are evolving. On a planet that is rapidly losing species and habitats, facing runaway climate change, and paving over natural areas near large cities, we do not have the luxury of rejecting areas, just because they do not encompass monumental scenery. We need fresh thinking about which areas have national park quality, taking into account more than old-fashioned aesthetic standards.

Using a biodiversity filter we find that:

- Land Between the Lakes is one of the largest solid tracts of federal land in the East. The area has such rich biodiversity that it has been designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. I do not like reservoirs, but they do help to buffer the area. It is also less than a two-hour drive of Nashville.

- Quabbin is the largest solid block of public land in southern New England, offering one of the best chances for restoring wilderness in the region. It is two hours or less from Boston, Hartford, and Providence. If you reject it because of its reservoir, you should be consistent and reject Grand Teton as well, because Jackson Lake is a reservoir, the same size as the Quabbin.

- Klamath-Siskiyou is listed by WWF as one of its Global 200 top biodiversity areas and by IUCN as an Area of Global Botanical Significance, and is proposed as a World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

- Gila-Blue Mountains represents what could be the best chance of restoring an ecologically complete landscape in the Southwest. It encompasses the largest complex of roadless forest lands in the region, offering vast backcountry that could allow the recovery of the Mexican wolf, jaguar, Mexican spotted owl, and other imperiled species.

- Book Cliffs-Desolation Canyon has more than 700,000 acres of proposed wilderness, but split into a number of tracts that are surrounded by lands open to resource extraction. A national park could protect both the roadless areas and the lands connecting them

- Red Desert is the largest is the most extensive, unprotected high-elevation desert region in the United States. It is home to 350 wildlife species, including the largest desert elk herd in the world. The area is urgently threatened by resource extraction.

Using an urban filter:

More examples include: Allegheny Plateau (Pittsburgh), Bankhead-Talladega (Birmingham), Delaware Water Gap expansion (New York, Philadelphia), El Yunque (San Juan, PR), Hoosier (Indianapolis), Great Salt Lake (Salt Lake City), Midewin Prairie (Chicago), Ocmulgee expansion (Atlanta), Shawnee (St. Louis), and Waheto-Palomar (San Diego),
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 01:37 PM
Well, you're right about Jackson Lake. I'll give you that.

But, the other stuff? You have to first come up with the $15 billion for maintenance, then $5-10 billion for inholdings, THEN we'll talk. That's not to mention that, for real habitat preservation in a place like Gila-Blue Mts., you're talking about spending yet more billions to purchase private land, or else Mexican wolves will keep getting shot. Sorry. Bottom line. And per what I said about that money? Again, wishes ain't reality, and I don't want yet more national parks strung along on an even-thinner dime. That's my last thought.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 01:44 PM
I take that back ... one more comment. Another analogy, which I'm sure Dave, at least, will appreciate.

This idea of "national parks everywhere" strikes me as like credential inflation in the workforce. One-third, if not one-half, of today's jobs that say "college degree required" actually don't need a college degree at all.
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 01:51 PM
Steve,

I agree with you about the need for more funding, both for existing and new parks. Transferring lands from the BLM and Forest Service to the National Park Service with their budget would be a big positive step. But even this will not happen without a nationwide citizen movement for new parks.

The last time conservationists organized such a movement was the Alaska Coalition, and it led to the Alaska Lands Act, despite intense opposition from many quarters. We did it then and we can do it again.

Thanks for a thoughtful discussion!

Best,
Michael
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 02:27 PM
Thanks back, Michael, even if we disagree! :)
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 02:28 PM
Oh, and here's another analogy, as I'm a Cardinals fan first, a National League fan second, and still a baseball fan above other sports.

Big Hall (Cooperstown Hall) or Small Hall? I'm a Small Hall guy.
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 02:39 PM
Steve,

OK a last response from me.

I do not buy the argument that credential inflation or baseball league saturation analogies apply to national parks. Does anyone seriously contend that we should not create more art museums, because it will dilute the value of existing museums? Or that we if we write too many symphonies it will reduce the popularity of Mozart's symphonies? Of course not, because each museum and symphony is unique and special. The same with national parks.

The flawed notion that national parks should be rare luxuries goes back to the early days of the National Park Service under Stephen Mather and Horace Albright. Using this rationale, they rejected national parks for Mounts Shasta, Adams, St. Helens, and Jefferson, because we already had two Cascade volcanos in the system — Rainier and Lassen. That argument seemed reasonable in the early 20th century, when much of the landscape of the West was still de facto wilderness and did not seem to need protection. It makes no sense in the 21st century, when anything that is not protected is being rapidly developed.

Conservation biologists now understand that if we have any chance of sustaining native biological diversity, we need many diverse nature preserves that ensure ecological representation, redundancy, and connectivity on a landscape scale. That means protecting as much as possible of America. I feel safe in saying that 100 years from now, few people are going to complain that we protected too much of our country as national parks.

Best,
Michael
David W Hamilton
David W Hamilton Subscriber
Dec 27, 2016 07:17 PM
Michael....Lots of back and forth here....but I would first like to reel back to your broadside addressed to Steve and I from from 12/27 at 10:24 am.....I take exception to your assertion that Steve and I are "disregarding a number of important issues"....I am familiar with Steve's conversancy on these issues over months of his posts....and I am confident in saying that neither he nor I are unaware of the "important issues" you state ....I would suggest that , as is the case with me, Steve has long since internalized the points you make and has incorporated them into our context in making the observations that we are engaged in at any given time!
I would suggest that any further National Park designations are in the category of a pipe dream...along with increased budgets for Parks... or the creation of Wilderness Areas!...Why do you think that Obama has been using the executive authority of the Antiquities Act to create National Monuments??...It is all we have left, my friends!...The coming Congress will pass legislation eviscerating the Antiquities Act.....as well as all environmental legislation from Nixon onward! I must say that I find virtually all of the posts since my last one as basically pipe smoke from the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland!...It is going to be "Drill Here..Drill Now"...and mine here mine now!! on steroids...NEPA and ESA be damned!!....don't you folks get it!!...Well...You soon will!
 We have just witnessed a coup d'etat and we are under a back to the future paradigm to the gilded age! "conservation biologists"?...."the Paris accords"?...HELLO?.....We should be talking about "The Deal"...and the plans of our Billion Dollar Babies! for our Public Lands!...No science...no facts..no "what's best for the planet" or the populace!!...There has been no mention of Rep. Bishop's Pillaged Lands Initiative (the PLI) or Sen. Murkowksi's plans for our Public Lands!..Yes...we have only tea leaves at this point...but, get your heads out of the sand, the Earth has moved around us!
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 28, 2016 09:46 AM

David,

Sorry, I did not mean to imply that you are not aware of the issues of biodiversity and climate change, just that your arguments in your comments did not include them. I should have worded it more carefully.

I am well aware of the political upheaval going on and the threats it represents. I have worked on wilderness, national park, and public land issues for more than 30 years. I saw attacks by the Reagan and Bush Administrations that were just as nasty as these. They did a lot of damage. But those guys are gone and we are still there

I developed the original proposal for a 3.2-million-acre Maine Woods National Park back in 1994. Our group, RESTORE: The North Woods, was told by not only politicians and the forest industry, but also by mainstream environmental organizations, that this was a crazy, impossible “pipe dream” in a state dominated by giant timber and paper companies. In Utah, I have worked with Glen Canyon Institute since 2006 to restore Glen Canyon and a free-flowing Colorado River. Once also considered a ridiculous “pipe dream,” the decline of Powell reservoir is happening and there is a good chance it will be drained in the next few years. Neither of these efforts has been easy. It comes with the territory.

In August 2016, after 22 years of being told that a national park in the Maine Woods was impossible, President Obama designated a portion of our proposed park as Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. We refused to give up, and we have had a huge victory. Interestingly, once the monument was proclaimed, the major opponents moved on. There is no serious effort in Maine to reverse the designation. As in Springdale, Torrey, and Moab, Utah, local businesses are already realizing that having a national park in their back yard is beneficial to the economy. This is why Bishop, Chaffetz, Murkowski, et al. have railed about selling off or drilling other public lands, but scrupulously avoided any threats to decommission national parks.

Yes, Trump, Bishop, and all the others in the anti-environmental world are going to throw everything they have at us. Plenty of environmental groups will be fighting against these attacks. But endless defensive battles is not enough. We also need to go on the offensive with a positive agenda.

Creating new national parks and taking care of the parks we have is not a “pipe dream.” It is a positive agenda that can happen. The problem has been that no one is seriously advocating for national parks. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

With more than 300 million visitors per year, national parks have a nationwide constituency. If we only organized and activated a small percentage of those visitors, we would have a powerful base of millions of supporters to pressure the President and Congress — whoever is in office — to take action to create new parks and protect the ones we have.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 28, 2016 10:02 AM
Michael, your work on the Maine Woods I'm sure was long and arduous and ... it shows exactly what David said is correct. You know it was made a national monument, not a national park, and that by executive order under the Antiquities Act. Shockingly, it's at least a national monument under NPS control, not USFS. That said, the charitable land donors may have insisted on that as part of their donation. (And, of course, 88,000 acres is not 3.2 million. BUT, it's still more than 120 square miles. More than a typical county's size. And, 3.2 million acres????? Really? That's 5,000 square miles. One-seventh the entire state of Maine! The size of Death Valley NP! Would have cost billions of $$ to buy private land portions of that.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/[…]/Katahdin_Woods_and_Waters_National_Monument

Lake Powell? Trump will probably try to blame and charge Mexico for siltation removal.
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 28, 2016 12:17 PM
Steve,

I am sure Trump will try some bogus angle to blame the drought on Mexico or someone else. However, the Lower Basin wants water — even Republicans. In the end, he is going to have to deliver it of feel major political pain.

Yes, David is right that the politics are bad. We need to keep pushing. We can beat these guys.
David W Hamilton
David W Hamilton Subscriber
Dec 28, 2016 05:06 PM
The "political upheaval going on" is , in actuality, a counter-revolution against the tenets of the Progressive Era that began in earnest after the 1929 crash...its intention is to roll back basically every piece of Progressive legislation pf the 20th Century. We are in the midst of a watershed as dire as the 1850's over free or slave and the 1930's over feudal or progressive! Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan Bush I &2 and the Gingrich Contract on America...are all skirmishes in a ongoing "Culture War"! ...of which environmental and land management issues are key (and I would say architectonic !) issues. It is my view, as a student of history, that this election is a game changer like no other that we have seen in our history....the issues that have been convulsing this Country for 400 years (and were effectively dodged by the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution and the Civil War....some got solved there, many only temporarily and were reversed after Reconstruction!)...are still threatening to sunder the place...and may well yet!).
Those successes and projects that Michael has been involved in....and many others....are going to be seen as from a former halcyon age when there were still avenues to make good things happen.....but history isn't always kind in that regard as a shift in the political terrain can quickly close off lots of possibilities.
Wilderness and National Parks designations and budgets have been attenuating for some time now with the rise of the Tea Party and other proponents of Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand. ( I have always though the Congressional maxim that a Park or Wilderness had to have support from, at least, some members of the state's delegation to pass....was patently absurd...but there you are!.).
The Antiquities Act is about the only tool left to protect Federal land....(.and, as I have predicted elsewhere, it will be neutered or repealled!)...and leaving designated National Monuments under BLM or USFS "management" has been shown to be disastrous! Obama has designated, finally....(and likely too late!)...The Bears Ears NM!!....I have been a strong supporter...but can now only wonder at its fate under the coming administration!
One last point ..... as safe a prognostication as one can make is that Lake Powell will NOT be drained anytime soon...even though it is a goner for sure!! The only question I have is whether or not the state of Utah will succeed in duping the Country into paying for St. George's outrageous boondoggle of a "straw".

Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 29, 2016 12:11 PM
David,

I agree that the Republicans have tried to undo the New Deal since it was instituted. And the election of Trump is certainly a new low. But I do not share your pessimism about the future. Most people who voted for Trump were low-information voters who had no idea what they were voting for. It was a personality contest.

Republicans are unpopular. They have only been winning because of lies, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and better organization than the Democrats. I do not see this as a massive renunciation of the New Deal by the American people.

Having a corrupt Trump, a far-right wing Congress, and a Supreme Court with right-wing Trump appointments running the federal government is surely a really bad thing. A lot of damage will be done. However, Trump was not elected with an anti-environmental mandate. He is going to focus on the things he thinks are the most important, and other than “drill baby, drill” and gutting of regulations, I have not seen much interest from trump in environmental issues.

In the Congress, the Republicans are going to have a lot of stuff on their plates, including eliminating the ACA, privatizing Medicare and Social Security, etc. They are going to encounter a huge amount of blowback on all of those things. Rob Bishop's fantasy of getting rid of the Antiquities Act ranks way down the list for the major Republican players in Congress. I predict that none of the existing national monuments will be abolished and the Antiquities Act will remain fully intact.

Regardless, I do not believe that the Antiquities Act is our last bastion for land protection. The lack of new national parks and wilderness is not due to the Tea Party, but to the conservation movement losing its vision and drive since being stunned by the anti-environmental Reagan administration. The reason we have gotten so many national monuments is that conservationists have actually pushed for them. This is what we also need to do with parks and wilderness.

Regarding Lake Powell, having worked on this issue for a decade, I think your prognostication is incorrect. Unless there is a decade of biblical floods, Powell and Mead will never both fill again. No one needs Powell directly for water — except Page, AZ and the boondoggle Lake Powell Pipeline, which will never be built. It is living on borrowed time.

In contrast, 25 million people depend on water from Lake Mead. In the end, supplying water under the Colorado River Compact is the highest priority. California has senior water rights and will demand its allocation. As soon as keeping Powell is seen as undermining the ability of Mead to supply water to the Lower Basin, it will be drained and Glen Canyon Dam will be bypassed. That is going to be sooner, rather than later.
Larry Glickfeld
Larry Glickfeld Subscriber
Dec 29, 2016 01:00 PM
Dale (12/27, 10:55AM above), you said it. Altho I doubt the population will actually double in 30-50 years (it has taken about 60+ years for its current doubling), it will increase dramatically in this country unless we do something about it, and that's the root of the problem. I refuse to support the Sierra Club and the like that choose to totally ignore the population problem. If environmental organizations, along with religious leaders, politicians, and the media continue to fail to address this issue, both from the standpoint of birth control and immigration, whatever else we do is a lost cause.
David W Hamilton
David W Hamilton Subscriber
Dec 29, 2016 07:00 PM
Michael....I fully understand where you are coming from on Lake Foul and Lake Mead ....I am on your side and I have been involved in the Colorado River issues here for 40 or so years...so enough with the eager puppy=-dog lectures here, already...OK!! As was projected by Marc Reisner in "Cadillac Desert"...and layed our by James Lawrence Powell in "Dead Pool"...as well as the many essays is HCN that you have probably read as well...or should.....this is not about science and logic...;it is about power and money!!! Of course neither Lake Mead nor Lake Powell are going to fill again in the lifetime of this civilization...and I have written as many a letter as you about "filling Mead first" as the more efficient of the two reservoirs! You must not live in the area or you would know well that Lake Powell is sacred to the Mormons...second only to Temple Square...and that alone counts for more than all of your logic and science!! Remember from this...and other desert rats ...do not discount the St.George pipeline .....and don't get overly excited about the draining of Lake Powell.....and, certainly not under the coming regime!
Mark Reisner..."Water moves uphill towards power and money!"...and Mark Twain..."Whiskey's for drinkin"....and water is for fighting over!"...That is the West my friend!
It is not sustainable...but who cares?!
David W Hamilton
David W Hamilton Subscriber
Dec 29, 2016 07:08 PM
Michael...I really hate to sound like H.L. Mencken....but...get real, my boy!!!...The GOP/WNP can perform more than one travesty at a time....and, besides, that is what the Billion Dollar Babies in the cabinet are for!...Have you ever spent any time studying the Gilded Ages that started in earnest at the end of Reconstruction and ran, with some interference, until 1929?...You really should...it will prove an instructive lesson on where we are going that all Americans are going to experience good and hard...as is our landscape and environment! I stand by my observations...and, if anything, the situation is going to prove far worse than I project!
Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett Subscriber
Dec 30, 2016 09:51 AM
David,

I know we are on the same side and I appreciate your comments. I still think you are overly pessimistic, but we will find out in the coming years and months. Regardless, keep up the good fight!

Best,
Michael
David W Hamilton
David W Hamilton Subscriber
Dec 30, 2016 11:19 AM
As Ben Franklin put it..."I am a pessimist...that way I am never unpleasantly surprised!" I have been fighting the good fight on all sorts of fronts...this is only one....for a good half century now...and, at the moment, I feel, like Sisyphus ...that I am back at square one!!....(post big sigh, here!!).
One suspects that we are all going to find ourselves in the trenches with more immediate and dire situations than Lake Powell!!...which is going to have to wait methinks!!... Even though it has been on my shit list since around 1970!!....and, I have to say, that the list has only grown over the decades!!
I am not actually certain that, in the end, we did survive Reagan...if one really looks around and thinks things through.
Regina Johnson
Regina Johnson Subscriber
Jan 02, 2017 12:51 PM
Mr. Hamilton, I have been thinking the same thing about Reagan lately --- I'd thought that we'd survived Reagan and Bush I and Bush II but now I realize we were just the frog in the pot on the stove. We got knocked backwards with each one and now we're in real trouble, we just didn't see how bad it was getting until too late.

National parks. I can't complain that so many people want to see and enjoy our national parks. That's what they're for, and with our national epidemics of obesity and nature deficit, not to say the crisis in public land ownership and stewardship, we have to encourage people to get out there, and we have to have more places for them to get out to. People won't support public land if they can't get out and enjoy it, and we're going to need every single supporter of public lands we can get now. That said I went to Glacier NP for the first time last summer and the park was totally overwhelmed. Even on a cold rainy Wednesday afternoon, every campground was full and I had to camp outside the park in a National Forest campground. Dutifully I parked at the visitor's center in the morning to take the shuttle to Logan Pass to spend the day hiking. After waiting 15 minutes for a shuttle to arrive, a tiny little 12-seater showed up, when somewhere around 50 people were in line. After that bus filled and departed the ranger managing the line told the rest of us it would be about an hour before the next shuttle would come. So I got back in my car to drive to Logan Pass, to find that the parking lot was already overflowing. What kind of management is that??? You can't get on the shuttle because they're overwhelmed, and you can't park at the trailheads because the lots are full, so I had to spend my time there as one of those car tourists instead of spending the day hiking like I expect to do at a national park. I did end up spending a whole day at one of the lesser known trails along the west side, but even there the trailhead parking was overflowing with 5 cars.
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Jan 02, 2017 01:16 PM
Logan pass or going too he Sun road I usually got going at daybreak and would hardly ever see a vechile. I also planned my trips before peak visitor use happened in the summer
That said there was a huge increase in visitor park usage nation wide.
Visited the trails on the West side like June 20th some years and it is very quite. I know that changes as summer goes along and probably in recent years you may be getting more usage.

We love our parks and it is the only land the vast majority of people will ever own part of.