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Sunday, September 23, 2012

National Parks and the future. Are we up to the challenge?

The national parks face Draconian budget cuts this winter.  Unless congress can find a solution to our budget problems, places like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and Gettysburg face nearly 10 percent cuts! 

Critics of park spending often argue that the federal government is broke and must bring spending in line with revenues.  This position overlooks several facts.  First, the national parks are huge economic engines.   For every dollar spent on national parks, economic research shows that ten dollars is spent in park gateway communities and businesses.  In real terms, national parks pump $30 billion into the national economy.  An outstanding return!

Further, even if the national park service budget was cut to zero it would have little or no impact upon the deficit.  The national park service budget is 1/14 of 1 percent of the entire federal budget.  The country can't balance the budget on the parks.  However, even if the parks were zeroed out, irreplaceable natural wonders and historic sites such as the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore could be lost forever.  A classic example of the cure being worse than the disease.

National parks belong to all Americans, they preserve and protect some of our most sacred ideas, hopes, and places.  We owe it to ourselves and to all future generations of Americans to leave the park system in better shape than when we inherited it.  Previous generations were able to preserve and pass on the national parks through the end of the civil war, the first and second world wars, the great depression, the cold war and on and on.  Previous generations always seemed to find the resolve and resources to protect our parks.

Now the mantle has been passed to us.  Are we up to the challenge?


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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Public Lands Day: A great way to invest in the future

In my new novel Unleashing Colter's Hell, my central character is Grayson Cole, a national park ranger who works in Yellowstone national park.  On a nearly daily basis park rangers like Grayons are required to lead hikes, recommend places to eat and stay, know the name of every park flower and animal, as well as protect the visiting park from the public and the public from the park.  Park rangers are true "Jack and Jill's" of all trades and are among the most dedicated and well trained federal employees. 

Park rangers however, can't and don't protect the parks all by themselves.  Countless citizen volunteers also help to preserve and protect our national heritage whether through cataloguing civil war artifacts, answering visitor questions, or hosting park campgrounds.  The park service simply couldn't do its job without this help.

September 29th is National Public Lands Day, a national day of service where concerned citizens can give back to their favorite park, forest, or beach.  More than 17,000 people are expected to give their service at more than 2,100 sites in every state in the Union.  Here in Washington State, volunteers with the National Parks Conservation Association will travel to beautiful Mount Rainier to repair trails, clean up campgrounds, and plant native plants.

It's been my experience that people value those things that they have a personal investment in, be it their family, career, hobby, or community.  Volunteering for a National Public Lands Day event, allows one to become "invested" in the preservation and protection of our national parks and other public lands  Your repairing a trail, pulling weeds, or cleaning a campground will help the park rangers and other land mangers better insure that our national heritage is protected for years to come.

Where will you be volunteering on September 29th?