This week’s online issue of National Park Traveler featured a story by Kurt Repanshek entitled “Republicans On House Natural Resources Committee Planning Big Changes For Public Lands”, which discusses how the GOP plans to continue efforts to dismantle environmental legislation protecting, among other precious resources, our national parks. Many of the representatives are backed and funded by corporate behemoths such as the petroleum, logging and mining industries, who have been pushing for years to open the land close to the parks, if not the parks themselves, to oil exploration and drilling, logging and strip mining. Even if the activities are not conducted directly on park land, the proximity would be nonetheless devastating to a park’s ecological balance, wildlife, plant life, geological structures, clean water supplies and park visitors. Aside from the obvious danger of oil and other chemicals leaking into the soil and groundwater of parkland, the land formation itself would suffer extensive damage from the shock waves of industrial hammerings and continuous heavy truck traffic.
This is especially important in parks such as Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, both part of Utah’s canyon country. The parks contain highly fragile sandstone spires and structures, such as the famous Delicate Arch (that appears on the state’s license plates and in most of its tourism literature), which could be easily damaged or destroyed by the profound and wide-ranging vibrations of ongoing heavy exploration and drilling. Animals, plants, rivers, lakes and waterfalls would all suffer significant damage that could take decades, if ever, to reverse. The tone of Repanshek’s article is optimistic overall and it’s true that many environmental groups are fighting hard to maintain and improve environmental protection laws. Groups such as the National Resource Defense Council and the Audubon Society have been working with (and against) Congress for years to help protect the parks, regularly engaging the support of their many followers, with considerable success. Bloggers such as Dan Lashof and Alisa Opar keep readers informed of park and other environmental developments.
The Bush administration continually pushed to develop oil drilling areas, many within only two miles of the borders of national parks. Leading the current plans to continue that destructive tradition are U.S. Representatives Doc Hastings, R-Washington, and Rob Bishop, R-Utah. Tragically, Hastings, who has received only a 2% lifetime score from the League of Conservation will chair the Natural Resources Committee. Both politicians unfortunately have abysmal conservation records and only time will tell what impact they will have on America’s beloved public lands.
Let’s not let our elected officials cave in to corporate self-interests at the expense of our historic national parks. One way to help is to contact your state representative and make your opinion known. The House of Representatives makes it simple with a web page that first identifies your representative and then allows you to submit comments directly from their site. Remember that, although many politicians are largely funded by corporations and industries, the truth is that their job is only as good as the results of the next election. Believe it or not, most politicians do care deeply about their constituents opinions; their votes are, after all, their bread and butter. Speak up: join an environmental support groups such as The Audubon Society, The Sierra Club or The Wilderness Society; join local efforts to protect state and national parks and conservations areas; use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to make your feelings known about protecting our beautiful national lands. Most importantly, visit, explore and enjoy the parks regularly. Every little bit helps and together, we can keep our parks green, healthy and untouched by those who wish to destroy our protected natural sites to line their own pockets.