damn the man, save the empire national parks

26 Oct

As most of you know, I am a huge fan of America’s National Parks. I visit numerous parks every year (I’m fortunate to have many nearby, including the amazing Shenandoah National Park), and make use of NPS facilities weekly (I regularly walk the Petersburg Battlefield Park on lunchbreaks or after work, due to it’s proximity to my office). I grew up appreciating nature, with scouts, uncles, and whatnot; and have always had an eye toward conservation, and being a historian for a while made me a big fan of folks like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. One of my career ambitions as a federal employee is to at some point work for the Department of Interior (particularly the National Park Service); I almost see doing such a thing as penance for all these years I’ve spent under the Defense umbrella. I’ll make it happen someday.

Anyway, many of you by now have seen the headlines about the proposed fee increases for entry to some of the “busiest” parks, including the big guns like my beloved Shenandoah, and the big western parks including Yellowstone and Grand Canyon.

I am, not surprisingly, opposed to this.

Now, most of the park system is free to access (odds are you have some hidden jewels near you to discover, like I did with Great Falls Park a few years back), but the larger ones do charge a reasonable access fee per vehicle ($20-$30 currently at peak season), to recover some costs. However, the current proposal put forth by Interior Secretary Ryan “$12k Charter Flight”” Zinke, would increase fees at these parks to $70 per vehicle, all while the current administration’s budget is looking to cut the NPS’s budget by double digits and permanently eliminate over 1200 full-time positions within the agency, as well as shrink National Monument/Park areas by hundreds of thousands of acres and auction the areas of to oil and mining companies

Of all the the thoroughly awful things the current administration is doing (I’m not even going to bother listing them, because it’ll get longer by the time I finish), this one really hurts. As a nation, we have some tremendous natural beauty and grandeur within our borders; access to such resources should be open to ALL Americans, regardless of financial situation; decreasing access by increasing fees reduces availability of these great public resources, with their opportunities for education, reflection, recreation, relaxation, adventure, and spiritual fulfillment, to the people who probably need it most. We ought to be encouraging Americans to get outside and look around, to enjoy, respect, and preserve nature, not fence bits of it off and auction the rest to folks who’ll despoil it.

The good thing is, we’ve got some time to make our voices heard on this one – the Department of Interior has this issue up for public comment through mid-November, so I recommend you go to the comment site linked here and make your voice heard on the issue – let’s get the nation on record that we don’t want to see our nation’s natural public spaces cut off from significant portions of the public!

-not always a fan of this FB group as they sometimes get mean, but they’re mostly on the money here-


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