Our National Parks: Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, and under threat

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Since the Trump inauguration, National Parks have been in the spotlight. 

The U.S. Department if the Interior (DOI), which is charged with protecting and managing the Nation's natural resources and cultural heritage - including the National Park Service - was put under a de facto gag order and temporary social media blackout after the National Park service tweeted photos which compared turnout at the Obama and Trump inaugurations. 

The original tweet was deleted, and the NPS apologized. You can check out photos released by the NPS this week in a response to a Freedom if Information Act (FOIA) request here. A quick Google search will also yield multiple screen shots of the original tweet, many with hilarious commentary. 

In a delightful twist, the Badlands National Park went rogue - and viral - in response to the twitter ban, releasing a series of defiant tweets on climate change. The DOI's mission and mandate includes providing scientific information about the resources it manages.  

The original tweets were removed, but you can find the Alternative National Park movement that has sprung up in their wake on Facebook and Twitter using the handle @AltNatParkService, or sign up to join the movement on their website:

"You can shut down the use of our social media accounts, but you cannot shut down the internet or take control of what we do with our personal time! We only wish to protect and preserve the environment for future generations to come."

Our amazing network of National Parks crossed my radar this past fall when my husband and I visited and hiked in Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. A few pictures from our trip are at the bottom of this post. The park was majestic, pristine, and free to enter (making me wonder not a few times why I hadn't been taking better advantage of this fantastic resource all of these years.) 

The National Park Service official website quotes Pulitzer-prize-winning writer, novelist, and environmentalist Wallace Stegner: 

"National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."

Soon, many of our national parks could be under a greater threat than a twitter blackout. 

On Jan 30, 2017, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona introduced a resolution that would repeal safety and enforcement standards for oil and gas drilling in more than 40 national parks under updates to the National Park Service 9B rules which went into effect in 2016. 

The 9B rules apply to national parks in which the federal government owns the surface lands, but private companies mineral rights below the surface. According to the independent, non-partisan National Parks Conservation Association (I highly recommend checking out their site - it's beautifully done, and includes travel tips): 

"This situation is called a 'split estate,' and it presents a potential for conflict when a private company exercises its rights to extract minerals while the Park Service tries to uphold its legal mandate to leave parks 'unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations...'

If the 9B updates are repealed, the Park Service would revert back to the outdated rules from 1978. The 319 wells would become exempt from badly needed safety upgrades, taxpayers would remain on the hook for millions of dollars in cleanup costs, law enforcement would not have the authority to enforce safety compliance, and the Park Service could not charge drillers for damaging national park lands."

You can find out more and take action here

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There are 4 Comments

RobertLeming's picture

.... Wallace Stegner quite, Kate!

Over the course of my life I have seen spikes in the current kind of attacks we are seeing on the very concept of cherishing and preserving the Natural World. Swings towards the word "exploit".

Then landmark things happen, a river catches on fire, cherished species start to disappear, "Silent Spring" gets published .... and the common person remembers what is at stake.

Staying alert to the opportunitites that present themselves to put my shoulder to the next, upcoming turn back to the appreciation of #OurAmazingWorld

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Stephen Rockwell's picture

On a day that the new EPA director cast shade on what we all know to be true (CO2 is a major component to climate change and human activity is creating this CO2) it was good to read more about the NPS responses.  

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18 users have voted.
Kate Beale's picture

Great idea to create a one-stop-shop for these accounts- it's exciting that there are so many, but can be hard to keep track.

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14 users have voted.