It’s day twelve of the government shutdown, and the country has settled into a tired routine. Much of the shutdown discussion seems to have taken on a tone of resignation or half-hearted complaint, as the public watches while efforts at bipartisan talks collapse. Despite this trend towards passivity from sidelined Americans, there has been a lot of venom out there—some of it terribly misdirected.
I have been appalled at the extent of the vitriol and misinformation that’s floating around, especially regarding the role of the National Park Service in the closure of its 401 units around the country. Sites ranging from the Liberty Bell to Yosemite have been barricaded to visitors. Understandably, people are upset about being shut out of America’s most special places. For many travelers, a big national parks vacation is the trip of a lifetime: a pilgrimage to places of tremendous natural beauty and historic significance, planned for months or even years in advance. Being turned away at the gate is hurtful and costly. Read more
One good thing about the shutdown: it’s given me the time and mental space to do some writing, for the first time in a long time.
I started this blog in June of 2012. I updated it regularly until February, when a number of life events coincided to make writing well-nigh impossible. When I went on furlough (my scheduled furlough, that is) in August, I had lots of quality time in the backcountry. I did lots of journaling and vowed to take up writing again. I then came back to work at the beginning of September, and did a whole lot of … not writing. Read more
October can be a wonderful time for national park visits. The crowds and heat of summer have faded, and the colors of autumn brighten the landscape. Sadly, this year’s government shutdown has closed all 401 national park sites around the country. How long the shutdown will last is a great unknown. So what do you do if you pull up to the gate of a national park on your long-planned vacation, only to find the way is barred?
There are no substitutes for our national parks. They are set aside and protected as national parks for a reason: these lands are of national or international significance. But knowing that doesn’t help much if you’re in your rental car on your vacation, trying to figure out where you should go when your plan has been foiled. Here are a few ideas for alternative destinations. Read more
The 112th Congress will not go down in history as having accomplished much for conservation, but one of its last acts on Sunday night was to pass legislation promoting Pinnacles National Monument in California to full national park status.
The national park system currently includes 398 different units, with all kinds of different designations. The system includes not just national parks, but also national battlefields, national historic sites, national historical parks, wild and scenic rivers, and national memorials, among others. As a national monument, Pinnacles is already part of the park system, but its redesignation will make it the 59th national park. Read more
Yellowstone National Park recently announced that it had removed over 300,000 lake trout from Yellowstone Lake during its summer 2012 gill-netting operations. Yes, that’s three hundred thousand of the non-native, predatory fish pulled out of the lake, all in a single season. And many of them are real whoppers, like the one held by Park Service fisheries biologist Phil Doepke in the NPS photo at left.
Where did all these lake trout come from? Why does the park want them gone? How has the lake trout’s presence in Yellowstone Lake affected other organisms, such as the iconic cutthroat trout? Read more
On October 1, the National Park Service announced that it had approved a controversial proposal by power companies to upgrade the electrical lines running through Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a 70,000-acre park in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that straddles the Delaware River. Two weeks later, on October 15, a coalition of nine conservation groups including Earthjustice, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the New Jersey Highlands Coalition filed suit in federal court to stop the powerline upgrade. Read more
Saturday, Sept. 29 marks the 19th annual National Public Lands Day, a celebration of America’s natural and cultural heritage. It’s a great opportunity to get outside—either as a volunteer at one of over 2,000 participating sites nationwide, or as a visitor to one of the many areas that is observing a fee-free day.
As part of last year’s National Public Lands Day, legions of volunteers around the nation combined forces to plant a whopping 100,000 trees and plants and build an impressive 1,500 miles of trail. That’s quite a tally for a single day’s worth of work, and it’s a great reminder of how much we can do for our parks and other public lands when we decide to take responsibility for them. Read more