Yellowstone Park managers are still not focusing on the main problem - true for most parks, I would guess - and that is crowds and what park officials feel they must do to accommodate them (HCN, 5/30/94). Crowds destroy the basic mood of the park itself - its differentness. This differentness is a thing that all park managers seem to be pre-programmed to dismiss in favor of "tourist hours of use."
Too often park employees are sycophants to the director. The word gets out that we want nothing but positives at park headquarters: Crowds bring problems, yes, but bigger budgets too. The message? Find more kinds of things to do, or have, that some interest group will like. Let's find a slice of the park for the jet ski crowd, maybe a dune for the duners. A marina, a kart track, snowmobiling. How about dirt biking and off-the-road trails for the RV crowd? For sure a grocery and more trinket shops.
My first short tour of Yellowstone in 1957 featured a different mood. Now, facilities are peeking out from everywhere. Roads are freeway speed and bad. Paved walkways abound. The bear are scarce as are the other predators. Today, nearly all the roadside rivers have vast gobs of floating masses of algae and other weeds indicating serious eutrophication.
I thought one of the basic precepts of park management (in the law itself) was the idea that "naturalness is to prevail." If there is a conflicting congressional mandate, I would think managers would err on the side of preservation just as nuclear plant managers are supposed to err on the side of safety and salmon biologists were supposed to have erred on the side of too many, as opposed to too few.
Park authorities have helped sabotage the original mandate. But now we know and, as the Park Service must know because it confronts the problems every day, it is past time to kick "em all out: vans, motorhomes, RVs, pickups pulling big living rooms, autos, all motorized rigs. The most ubiquitous thing seen in the park - and the most dangerous thing - is the car. Get out and don't ever come back!
- Barbara Ullian on How to love a weird and perfect wilderness
- John Wahoff on It’s not the Wild West anymore. Look before you shoot.
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- Steve Snyder on Missing science, disagreement surrounds fracking report