THE Guardian writes about our national parks

10:50 a.m. on November 20, 2018 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
681 forum posts

We've come to appreciate the perspective that the Guardian gives on many stories, and this one really hit home.  It's an excellent discussion of the issues we face moving forward with our national parks. 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/20/national-parks-america-overcrowding-crisis-tourism-visitation-solutions

 

We have always been of the opinion that encouraging people to visit the mountains is a good idea, because the more people appreciate our wilderness, the more they will vote for protection of our wild places.  But this article suggests that we may be well beyond the carrying capacity of some of our parks, and more people isn't going to help that at all. On the other hand, we never post geo-locations for any of our photos, and we don't usually recommend specific campsites for two reasons.  One of them is that we think you should find your own scenic treasures.  The other one is that you may prefer something different from what we like, and you should feel free to explore a bit.  At any rate, the story is sobering.  And yes, we contribute to pay for the Guardian's work.

Our blog is at backpackthesierra.com

11:03 a.m. on November 20, 2018 (EST)
73 reviewer rep
3,972 forum posts

One of the fundamental ideals about National Parks has been access for everyone.  It is possible to make a case that some are over visited.  The NPS has been reluctant to admit that the parks can be "loved to death."

If visitors are a little over carrying capacity, and the we can agree that parks are under funded, we can increase the cost of admission. 

If there are too many people staying overnight, we can reduce the number of available campsites. 

There are plenty of things the NPS can do, but it goes against the original grain of how they have been intended to be used.  The park visitors are increasinly urban and disconnectef from the outdoors.  The natural history programs have given way to law enforcement.  People mess with wildlife, and crawl around on rock formations.  They pose in dangerous places.  Education helps.  The NPS may have to change some of their practices in the future. 

4:44 p.m. on November 20, 2018 (EST)
125 reviewer rep
3,419 forum posts

Fees charged by the parks should be based on the level of service provided, not as a tool to limit attendance.  The problem with controlling attendance through access pricing is it gentrifies the visiting demographic, when at some point it prices out less affluent would be visitors.  Regardless, the fee structure should be capable of covering the cost of whatever service level is planned, for whatever number of people is planned.  One change should be modifying entrances fee to be based on vehicle type, as well as number of visitors - after all a vehicle uses but one parking space whereas a carload of visitors litter and poop many times that of a solo visitor.

We are at a juncture where another overhaul of the infrastructure of many parks is over due.  Should the main roads of Yellowstone be widened, given the attendance volume?  Or should we install public transportation infrastructure, including rail lines, as they have done in certain popular venues in Europe?  Should we erect a hut system in certain BC venues, modeled on those in Europe, or continue to attempt limiting trail congestion and environmental impact via permit quotas? 

What to do about those who are disrespectful/too lazy to clean up after themselves in the BC.  I am all for a per-day fee based BC permit, to cover the cost of cleanup.  I am also for staffing up BC patrols to reinforce LNT etiquette as well as enforce regulations. 

There are ways we can reduce the public's footprint in highly visited areas.  I thought the idea of introducing composting privies at more congested BC venues was a good idea, yet they have subsequently been removed at several locations.  Why?  Perhaps controversial, is the notion of requiring all BC visitors to volunteer and "put in their time" on work crews.  Nothing like repairing trail short cut damage and hauling out others' trash to drive home the concept of camping responsibly.  Just as controversial is discouraging the uncultivated from sullying the BC by making its access more daunting, removing a significant number of trail signs.  Alas this may discourage people from venturing, but it may also result in more rescues of lost greenhorns. 

Ed   

6:25 p.m. on November 20, 2018 (EST)
73 reviewer rep
3,972 forum posts

The cost of admission to a National Park is incidental compared to costs for transportation, fuel, food, lodging and everything else.  Fees have always been low.  I am not proposing that we change the type of visitors by raising the price.  I think it would improve the quality of the services.  It might have some marginal impact on the number of visitors. 

8:04 p.m. on November 20, 2018 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
681 forum posts

If you were in the National Parks forty years ago, I don't think you would say that todays' visitors are messing with the wildlife or climbing over the railings more than they did back then.  Yosemite is a clear example where today things are actually much quieter and more focused on a natural experience than they were back in the days of feeding the bears and the REAL firefall...

8:09 p.m. on November 20, 2018 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
681 forum posts

To follow up, here is today's bear report.  Compare this to a generation ago!

 

2018 Total Bear Incidents: 20
2018 Total Property Damage: $1,875

Compared to this same week 2017 (the lowest year on record), bear incidents in 2018 are down by 43% and damage amounts (in dollars) are down by 64%. Compared to 1998 (when incidents in the park peaked), bear incidents and damages in 2018 are down by 99%.

Bear Activity Summary: Bears are being seen daily in Yosemite Valley. Bears have been entering the campgrounds on a nightly basis. Over Veterans Day weekend, bears obtained food garbage on three separate occasions from campsites. Due to the large mast of acorns this fall along with a lack of precipitation, bears are expected to be active well into December (if not later).

Red Bear, Dead Bear: So far this year, 16 bears have been hit by vehicles along park roads. Please help protect wildlife by obeying speed limits and being prepared to stop for animals on roads.

Fascinating Bear Fact: On average, adult female bear home ranges are between 2.5-10 square miles, whereas males are typically 10-60 square miles. However, bears collared in Yosemite have been known to travel over a hundred miles away!

Please report bear incidents and sightings: Call the Save-A-Bear Hotline at +1 209 372-0322 or e-mail yose_bear_mgmt@nps.gov. For more information about Yosemite’s Bears, please visit: http://www.Keepbearswild.org.

8:54 a.m. on November 21, 2018 (EST)
82 reviewer rep
475 forum posts

I was working in the NPS forty years ago, and in contact with visitors.  There has not been any significant change in the clueless quotient, as far as I can tell.  Cluelessness does change, from park to park, depending upon accessibility.  Huge difference between Petrified Forest, basically a restroom stop along I40, and more inaccessible parks, like Channel Islands, a significant voyage from the mainland.

Some sort o quota system would be better than raising entrance fees, which creates very significant problems.  Entrance fees are typically just a drop in the bucket of operating costs for most parks.  Many parks do not charge fees because the cost of collection would exceed the revenue received... 

11:52 p.m. on November 21, 2018 (EST)
125 reviewer rep
3,419 forum posts

I agree the clueless factor is a natural constant pervasive in all human endeavors, like the 85/15 ratio.

I also concur, many parts of the BC appear less impacted than 40 years ago.  It appears that is due to regulations that barred wood fires, removing camp sites too close to trails, streams and lakes, and imposition of quotas.  One areas where policy has astounding impact is the Sion Canyon north of the Hwy 9 junction.  Private passenger vehicle are severely restricted.  Beaver are repopulating that stretch of river, as are wild turkeys, ring tailed cat and other species I did not see in decades, prior to this policy.  It should be noted in some parks areas that previously were infrequently visited now have a regular human presence, perhaps the consequence of being alternative venues to those with maxed out quotas, as much as from higher numbers of park visitors.  But some particularly fragile areas, such as deserts, have sustained long term degradation from intensified use and the the fact such areas have long recovery periods.  I recall when I first ventured into Joshua Tree NP in the 1960s (national monument status back then) there were double track scars streaking the desert floor in the middle of nowhere.  These were laid down decades - perhaps generations - before my first visit.  Only on recent visits have the scars finally healed up.

As for funding shortages, the park service is partly to blame.  The parks received close to 300K visitors this year.  While everyone loves to lament the waits and poor condition of facilities, the parks service does a lousy job informing visitors, regarding funding sources, and what we can do to get congress to increase funding.  Additionally, charging an additional $4 per person/visit would have result in close to a 30% increase in funding.  I am over simplifying this issue, but I am certain additional funding can be secured, given our fondness to recreate.

Ed  

8:05 a.m. on November 22, 2018 (EST)
82 reviewer rep
475 forum posts

whomeworry said:

I agree the clueless factor is a natural constant pervasive in all human endeavors, like the 85/15 ratio.

I also concur, many parts of the BC appear less impacted than 40 years ago.  It appears that is due to regulations that barred wood fires, removing camp sites too close to trails, streams and lakes, and imposition of quotas.  One areas where policy has astounding impact is the Sion Canyon north of the Hwy 9 junction.  Private passenger vehicle are severely restricted.  Beaver are repopulating that stretch of river, as are wild turkeys, ring tailed cat and other species I did not see in decades, prior to this policy.  It should be noted in some parks areas that previously were infrequently visited now have a regular human presence, perhaps the consequence of being alternative venues to those with maxed out quotas, as much as from higher numbers of park visitors.  But some particularly fragile areas, such as deserts, have sustained long term degradation from intensified use and the the fact such areas have long recovery periods.  I recall when I first ventured into Joshua Tree NP in the 1960s (national monument status back then) there were double track scars streaking the desert floor in the middle of nowhere.  These were laid down decades - perhaps generations - before my first visit.  Only on recent visits have the scars finally healed up.

As for funding shortages, the park service is partly to blame.  The parks received close to 300K visitors this year.  While everyone loves to lament the waits and poor condition of facilities, the parks service does a lousy job informing visitors, regarding funding sources, and what we can do to get congress to increase funding.  Additionally, charging an additional $4 per person/visit would have result in close to a 30% increase in funding.  I am over simplifying this issue, but I am certain additional funding can be secured, given our fondness to recreate.

Ed  

 You are absolutely right!  The NPS concentrates on communicating the values and significance of the area, rather than urging the visitor to petition Congress for additional funding.  Where are the priorities ?  What manner of bureaucrats are we employing that don't work on feathering their nests?

We should be spending more on our parks, simply because it is a rational economic investment.  The NPs are the lynch pin of a thriving tourism industry, which brings in significant foreign exchange.  Example.  We recently entertained some Russian relatives.  What did they want to see while they were here? = the Hollywood sign and the Grand Canyon (from the air).   They bolstered our economy and contributed to the significant and bothersome air traffic over GC.

2:23 p.m. on November 26, 2018 (EST)
73 reviewer rep
3,972 forum posts

Yellowstone bears might be a good exmple. Years ago we had open trash dumps. You could drive out at night and watch a pack of grizzlies forage in your headlights. Black bears used to line up along the road for handouts.  There were in campgrounds at night. They were at the lunch counter for bears Old Faithful. 

The Craigheads came along in the early 1970s and changed everything. The dumps were closed, bears were no longer fed and we got bear boxes at campgrounds. The NPS wised up. 

Now we have whole groups of people that have named every grizzly in the park and many people track their movements.  They communicate with radios and GPS and follow the bears around.  Any summer evening in Lamar Valley there will be groups 75 or more people watching the local wolf pack dance with the buffalo herd. They also have named the packs and individuals and keep track of them.

A whole new group of visitors want to take selfies with the wildlife. 

If you want wild animals you have to leave them alone. 

November 18, 2019
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: Getting lighter not a new Idea... Newer: Long trail hiker vs. vacation backpacker, vs. weekend backpacker.
All forums: Older: Old guy canoe - Esquif Huron 16? Newer: Old Roads to follow