Climate change is just one of the environmental issues effecting the National Parks today. Have we been taking these viewscapes for granted? We have been seeing significant changes to the National Parks within our life time. Such as the Mountain Pine Beetle infecting the Pine Trees in Rocky Mountain National Park and the quickly depleting glaciers in Glacier National Park. Climate change has also been effecting the wildlife inside our National Parks. No longer will you be able to view the moose in Isle Royale National Park in Michigan since they have recently been said to be heading North out of the warming temperatures. Or how about the reefs and marine life in Virgin Islands National Park. Because of disease, warming waters, and acidic waters, they are quickly declining. I wish there was a way I could single handedly fix these issue, but that just is not the case.
I started thinking about how taking our parks for granted has become an issue during a discussion in Environmental Issues in Tourism class. We have done this in the past to our National Parks. Everyone using their vehicles to travel for a weekend to the park, effectively creating congestion and mass pollution. Once again, we have impacted our parks so severely that they are now depleting, declining, and `self destructing`, as I see it. Maybe, instead of thinking long term, we as a population should start to think how we can slow down the destruction of our beautiful parks. Don`t take our National Parks for granted, help preserve them for future generations. Our children and grandchildren should have the benefit of seeing the beauty our countries have to offer.
When visiting National Parks, most visitors go to see the beauty of nature and to get out of the city to enjoy the fresh air. Though how soon will this be disrupted? At Shenandoah National Park, elevated levels of ozone have been documented which has damaged park vegetation. “Park staff members are concerned with this situation and therefore work on a variety of programs related to monitoring, research, and emissions reduction. Park staff members have also instituted an Ozone Advisory program aimed at educating employees and park visitors about the risk of exposure to ozone and precautions that can be taken” (NPS: http://www.nps.gov/shen/naturescience/gaseous_pollutants.htm). Pollution also affects the visibility in the park. Smog, which is caused by pollution, creates a layer of haze overtop of the park and disrupts the visual appeal for the tourists.
This short youtube clip shows how the ozone in the air has affected the vegetation in Sequoia National Park.
The Huffington Post posted a very interesting article on the subject of air pollution in the National Parks within the U.S.which you can read here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/national-parks-air-pollution-ranked_n_1553359.html. I never imagined that air pollution could have such an impact on a rural area such as a National Park. When I think of smog, I think of large urban areas in the U.S. such as LA or New York. However, this has not seemed been the case as of late. California’s Sequoia National Park was rated top for air pollution with a quarter of the year, or 87 days, recording dangerous smog levels. Maybe we as a population should start looking at our pollution ‘footprint’ since these prestige areas are now dangerous because of us as a human race.
Recently, I came across an article on the CBC news website which mentioned opening up two National Parks in Newfoundland for Moose hunting. They were planning on handing out over 900 hunting draws for these areas to reduce the number of moose habitats in the area. I feel as though this is not necessary. Canada is filled with land to hunt on, so what is the governments reasoning behind using our National Parks! Don’t get me wrong, I am for hunting, I just believe there is a time and place and that it should not be aloud within theses areas.
When I looked further into this, I found an article which speaks about the ‘Sportsmen’s Heritage Act’. In April 2012, a conservation bill was sent to Senate in the US. This bill was set to open up more of the National Parks within the US to hunting and fishing. There are now a total of 60-70 National Parks which allow hunting during the permitted seasons. I had believed that the National Parks were used for conservation and to protect a piece of our beautiful country. These parks should be used for learning about our heritage and historical events, not for hunting for sport!
You can learn more about the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4089/text
Some visitors do not realize the effect they can have on an environment. They may come into the parks, pick some wild flowers and try to approach wildlife for some fantastic photographs to show their friends back home.. However, you should always leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you found them! We want to preserve the parks for the future, therefore everything should be left how it was so future generations can enjoy them as much as we have.This may mean sacrificing how we use them today to save them for tomorrow.
in 2005, during the Bush administration, a draft revision of the National Parks management policies was created. This rewrite would open up every park in the US to off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles and jet-skies. It changed the initial policy of the park stating that they should be enjoyed and used today with no disregard of how they will be in the future. Paul Hoffman, apart of the Interior Department, was the man who wrote this draft. No longer would the main objective be to protect these parks so that future generations would be able to use them. I am definitely not surprised by this rewrite since the Bush Administration also authorized the use of 450 snowmobiles to be used per day in Yellowstone National Park during the winter months. These machines may be enjoyable, but are harmful for use in National Parks. They pollute, are noisy and disturb to wildlife in the area. It has been recently noted that the number of snowmobiles allowed in the park will once again be reduced. Here is an article going more in depth on the topic of this issue by the New York Times:
Nearly 30 years ago, Aldo Leopold forecast that it would not be logging, mining, or roads which would threaten the wilderness; but the people who came to visit these areas. Today, we find that Leopold’s forecast may have been alarmingly accurate (http://www.leopold.wilderness.net). This has become a major issue within National Parks. One issue caused by the large amount of tourists visiting the parks is; though the parks have designated parking areas, often there is not enough parking spaces with the excessive amount of vehicles. This causes parking on the side of the roads or in areas which are not designated for vehicles, which creates the destruction of vegetation and the surrounding wilderness. The issue is not only the vehicles, but also the tourists. When the park is overly populated it adds to a negative visitor experience.
Every time I drive into Banff National Park there is a traffic jam, usually this has arisen from the one vehicle which has stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures of the mountain goat on the side of the road. Though it is fantastic to enjoy the wildlife which surrounds us, it has became a problem in issues such as this. In Yosemite National Park, they implemented a general management plan which established one way traffic patterns. A shuttle bus began bringing people in and out of the park so that cars were completely eliminated. In my opinion, this would be a fantastic idea to implement in the National Parks through out Canada. Not only would it stop the traffic congestion, but also would cut down on the pollution caused by the vehicles!
Tourism seems to be one of the biggest challenges in National Parks. They can have both positive and negative effects on the landscape and the wilderness. Since tourists mainly come for the scenery and wildlife, there is pressure to conserve the habitats of the animals within the parks. I think some of the major issues dealing with tourism in the parks would have to be litter and waste brought into the national parks by tourists. Though litter has little impact on the ecological health of the environment, it has a negative effect on the environmental aesthetics and ads to a negative visitor experience. In my opinion, every National Park should introduce programs to promote taking the litter and waste out of the park which you brought in.
This summer I quickly realized the amount of waste that is left behind in parks (I worked for a community in Northern British Columbia as part of the “parks crew”. Part of the job consisted of picking up the litter along the beaches and inside the parks). The amount of garbage which we would have to truck to the dump on a daily basis was disgusting! Over half of the campers and tourists using the campsite and park facilities would leave their garbage and waist sitting on the lakeside for us to pick-up in the morning.. I could never wrap my head around how someone could think of this being morally alright. A great program which most of the National Parks in the United States have begun to implement is called “Leave No Trace”. This program was implemented to educate people about how to leave the least amount of impact while enjoying to park. The idea which it promotes is “Pack it in, Pack it out!” It educates how to dispose of waste, create the proper campfire to leave the least impact, and how to plan your visit beforehand. You can learn more about the program at http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/leavenotrace.htm Parks Canada and the National Parks Service have also attached heavy fines for littering within the parks. This can be upwards to $5000 a person!
So, my last words of wisdom.. Think before you litter!
The National Parks Service put out this ten minute video in 2001 about the Leave No Trace program.