Tuesday, August 31, 2010

National Parks suffering

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 12:19 PM

Well, this is sad news: We're not taking very good care of our National Parks. What happened to "leave nothing but footprints"? Ooo. Right, we never really meant that — did we?

The unnatural footprint left by hundreds of millions of park visitors is growing, environmentalists say. Hikers wander off marked trails, trampling vegetation. Vehicles clog park roads and sully the air with tailpipe emissions. Tourists leave behind water bottles and other scraps of litter. Above many national parks, sightseeing planes and helicopters buzz.

“We really count on the visitor having a sense of ownership of national parks,” said Jeffrey G. Olson, a public affairs officer with the National Park Service. “We remind them [the] parks are here for them to enjoy and ask they help make sure they are here for future generations, too.”

But the conga lines of tourists and cars are getting longer. As the U.S. economy turned sour, park visits rose. In 2009, 285 million people spent a collective 1.25 billion hours inside the national parks, the highest numbers since 2000, according to NPS figures.

“Traffic hassles in a national park, you ask?” Olson said. “Here’s one: finding a parking spot at the Logan Pass Visitors Center in Glacier National Park.”

“I don’t want to say the future is bleak” for the parks, given the man-made degradation, said Nimkin. “I mean, we can do something about it.” One change he hopes to see is a federally-mandated cap on the number of air tours over the Grand Canyon, no-flight “respite” periods during certain months, and a relocation of flight routes away from some rim edges and other popular hiking and backpacking spots. An increase in sightseeing flights could eventually fill the canyon with the “background drone we have in our cities,” Nimkin said.

Read the rest of this MSNBC article, by Bill Briggs, and enjoy some spectacular photo galleries here.

Further reading: "Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble" — New York Times

If you haven't watched the PBS Series National Parks: America's Best Idea, you should. Here's a trailer:

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