Reflections on Good News for Our National Parks

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More often than not, the daily news brings us more bad news about threats to the environment and Congress’ continued threats to reduce National Parks funding even more than they have already. Next week, Congress will decide whether to vote for a “Dirty Water Bill” that would undo much of the rivers, lakes and watersheds progress implemented with the 1972 Clean Water Act.

I have been a member of the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) ever since the days when George Hartzog was the high-impact director of the National Park Service between 1964 and 1972. There’s an indepth feature about Hartzog in the current issue of National Parks.

The greatest threat to the environment, is much larger than the issue of a Dirty Water Bill or an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: it is, quite simply, the fact we have to keep fighting to save and protect something that ought to be a top priority for everyone.

While it’s almost criminal that we–as a society–should have to fight so long and at such great expense to create good news for our environment and our National Parks, such news brings hope and a chance to reflect upon what kind of world we would have if the good news occurred so often, it was no longer newsworthy.

Reading the first 14 pages of the Summer 2011 issue of National Parks was a true pleasure:

  • Once again, the Gettysburg National Military Park has been spared from the disruption and sprawl of a casino on its doorstep. According to the NPCA, opposition to the casino by prominent historians, NPCA members and supporters, and a 30,000-signature peition helped persuade the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to do the right thing.
  • Kaiser Ventures has been trying since 1988 to create the largest landfill in the United States on land adjactent to Joshua Tree National Park. Had the company been allowed to do so, 20,000 tons of trash per day would have been dumped next to a fragile ecosystem. In 2009, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said “no,” and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Kaiser. Until Kaiser finds a new way to build the dump, Joshua Tree has much to celebrate on its 75th anniversary.
  • It has taken eleven years for the NPCA, its allies and its lawyers to force the Tennesee Valley Authority to stop polluting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On days when the pollution is at its worst, vistors to the park can see only 17 miles. On a clear day, visitors can see 77 miles. With the settlemen agreement, there will be many more clear days. The TVA will  reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 69% and sulfur dioxide emissions by 67% by phasing out 18 coal-fired units and by installing modern pollution controls on 36 other units by 2018.

I look forward to the time when clear victories will bring us the kind of clear days that allow us to see forever-–insofar as clean air and clean water are concerned. Until then, every success brings infinite relfections on what is possible.

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You May Also Like: Beauty and Heartbreak in Arroyo Pescadero - The Whittier, California city council wants to drill for oil in this environmentally sensitive arroyo east of Los Angeles.

Malcolm

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Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the recently released Bears; Where they Fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley, a glimpse at the dramatic history of the most beautiful place on Earth. A Natural Wonderland… Amazing Animals… Early Pioneers…Native Peoples… A Great Flood… Kinnickinnick… Adventures… The Great Northern Railway.

“Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and will make you truly immortal. — John Muir, “Our National Parks,” 1901

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4 responses

  1. Thanks for the shout-out about Arroyo Pescadero. I am so thankful that Kaiser was unable to build their dump next to Joshua Tree! That, too, is almost in my back yard–only 2 hours away, and it is one of my favorite National Parks. What a heartbreak it would have been had Kaiser won!

  2. I wondered how much press the Kaiser issue had been getting the the LA area since that may be where a lot of the trash was going to be coming from.

    With the Smokies about two hours away from me, I’m happy that a favorite spot is going to be getting a break as the TVA starts getting rid of the smoke from its burning of coal.

  3. You sure hit the nail on the head when you said “we have to keep fighting to save and protect something that ought to be a top priority for everyone”! I’ve thought the same thing many times. Why do we pay for a government that is supposed to protect the things that give us life and then have to fight against the politicians who intend to destroy those very things!

  4. The fight becomes even more absurd when the government IS the problem, in this case, as the owners of TVA. One would think the Feds’ own power company could stay within the rules of the Fed’s clean air legislation.