The opinion piece “It’s Time to Commence Closing National Parks” by Gill Lusk is incorrect on a lot of fronts. More than the 40 years that I worked for the National Park Service, there have been numerous attempts at “national park closure commissions”. In 2005, Congressman Richard Pombo (CA-R) announced his personal hit list. Like Lusk, he began with parks with the lowest visitation, implying that recognition is the most important criteria for their preservation. Some of the parks on his list have been modest historical internet sites like the houses of Revolutionary war hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, locations in no way anticipated to welcome hordes of guests. Pombo also integrated Alaskan wilderness like the two.7 million acre Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, the four million-acre Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and the two.five million acre Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. These Alaska parks are remote and visitation is low, but they preserve massive biodiversity and the standard lifeways of Native Alaskans. Pombo’s closure proposal went down in the flames of public outcry as need to Lusk’s ill-conceived opinion.
The National Park Program is not meant to be just a playground. Rather, its 419 units (not 483, as Lusk writes) are representative of the complete nation, its ecosystems, biodiversity and historical practical experience. Ever considering that 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred the American battlefields to the NPS, the National Parks preserve our nation’s most essential organic and cultural locations. Given that then, the NPS has grown to involve hallowed ground of the civil rights movement, of women’s suffrage and proper to vote, of westward expansion, and the prison camps that held Japanese Americans in the course of Globe War II.
It is for the reason that the NPS tells these stories with authenticity and preserves locations like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite that it is the envy of nations about the globe and the location of more than 300 million guests per year. When I served as the 18th director below President Barack Obama, I recognized there have been nevertheless a lot of untold stories: the Buffalo Soldiers’ early stewardship of the national parks, Harriet Tubman’s heroic escapes from slavery, the starting of the LGBTQ rights movement at Stonewall, Cesar Chavez’s protest for the rights of farm workers. By adding these parks to the national park technique, we broaden and deepen the narrative, producing new constituents for preservation and conservation of the complete national park technique and our public lands. These who recommend we can’t afford these essential parks and get in touch with for them to be closed (or “mothballed” as Lusk suggests) fall into the category of Oscar Wilde’s “those who know the value of all the things and the worth of nothing”. We witnessed what takes place when national parks are left unattended in the course of the 2018-19 shutdown, when Joshua Tree and other parks suffered harm that none of us will see repaired in the course of our lifetimes.
According to a current survey by Pew Investigation, 86% of Americans, of all political persuasions, have a favorable view of the National Park Service. In addition, the book Valuing U.S. National Parks and Applications: America’s Greatest Investment by Harvard economist Linda Bilmes and Colorado State University Professor John Loomis, determined the NPS contributes more than $100 billion to our nation’s economy, and discovered the American public would assistance a substantial enhance to their taxes to assistance the national parks.
Lusk asks “what is the alternative” to closing parks? The typical American taxpayer now provides much less than a single-tenth of a single cent to assistance the national parks. With bipartisan public assistance for the national parks and their financial influence as justification, Congress, who holds the purse-strings of appropriation, could effortlessly enhance the funding for the national parks. With two-tenths of a single cent per particular person, we could double the National Park Service’s spending budget and give it funding additional equal to its contribution to our nation’s pride, history, organic resource conservation, recreation, and economy. It’s—literally—a modest value to spend.
Jonathan Jarvis served in the National Park Service for 40 years, as ranger, biologist, superintendent and as the 18 Director from 2009-2017. His most current book is The Future of Conservation in America: A Chart for Rough Water.