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Sunday, February 1, 2015

National Parks or Amusement Parks?

Navy Pier Amusement Park
Back in 2001, I was the lead author on a piece for the George Wright Society's Biennial Conference on the Park Service's struggle to get control of recreation, especially motorized thrillcraft.  Over the next several years, the agency created rules banning jetski from nearly every national park, Yellowstone specific winter regulations and ORV rules for parks like Big Cypress.

The Park Service created many of these headaches through a misinterpretation of the Organic Act.  The Park Service believes the law requires the agency to balance recreation and conservation. It doesn't. But even if it did, the Park Service's management of the "recreation vs. conservation" balance currently favors an ever expanding number of recreational pursuits.  Many of which do not need a park setting to enjoy.

In the George Wright piece, my co-authors and I note the battle to determine the appropriateness of jet skis, snowmobiles, and off-road vehicles in the National Park System is part of a much larger struggle over what type of vision will guide future of national parks like Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Everglades. Will our national parks remain those sites where America protects some of its most sacred ideas, hopes, and places, or will they be allowed to degrade into nothing more than amusement parks?  Sadly, even after 15 years the jury is still out on this question. 



  1. I believe that most of the beauty of the National Parks is the quiet inherently available there. Our National Parks need to be places of refuge for more than just the wild animals. People need places to find quiet, to be able to lose themselves in their thoughts, breathe the fresh air found there and enjoy the magnificence of the landscapes. My family enjoys our National Parks every summer.
    Thank you for sharing this Sean. I'm following you now on twitter and will try to join your blog. Thanks again for your insight as a professional ranger.
    ~Victoria Marie Lees

  2. Great detailed information, I ll be visiting you more frequently, here is very interesting information.

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