March 9, 2006
As we visit more national parks we are confronted with how badly they are fraying round the edges. No money is budgeted for maintenance or education, and attempts are being made by the Bush administration to rewrite the Park Management Guidelines to open them up to ATVs and commercial interests. Less than a week before the close of the comment period concerning the proposed NPS management policies, Park Service officials announced that they would draft another version of the management policies. But instead of seeking public input, it will only reviewed by Park Service employees, Department of Interior officials, a national parks advisory board, and a few select outside parties. While we acknowledge and appreciate the efforts the Park Service made to involve the public in reviewing the original draft, there is no justification for excluding the public from reviewing revisions to it. So this month we have joined the National Park Conservation Assocation and through it have taken action on two issues by sending letters to our Senate and House representatives as follows:
A) National Parks Centennial Act
Our national parks are in peril. We recently spent 2 weeks in Big Bend National Park and are dismayed at the lack of resources allocated to this and other national treasures to preserve them for future generations. Big Bend is barely held together with scotch tape and bailing wire by the diminishing staff. Without a roster of dedicated volunteers (equivalent to 19 full time positions) the place would fall apart. In fact, most of our national parks do not have adequate funding for maintenance and natural and cultural resource preservation - not to mention their very important educational function. The National Parks Centennial Act would help to address the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog and more than $600 million annual operating shortfall in the national parks, making the parks healthy again by the Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016.
Our national parks symbolize so much of our American heritage. From the Battlefields of Gettysburg to the majestic landscape of Glacier National Park, each park represents history, solace, reflection and awe for every visitor. Unfortunately, our nation’s parks are faced with million- dollar backlog, crumbling historic sites and diminishing visitor resources. America’s national parks are in peril. The National Park Centennial Act would address these shortfalls and preserve our parks for present and future generations. I urge you to co-sponsor the National Parks Centennial Act.
B) Proposed Road through the Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the crown-jewels of our national park system and protects a remarkable variety of natural and cultural resources. The proposed North Shore Road would impair this national treasure by cutting a 35-mile gash through one of the largest, remaining roadless areas in the eastern U.S.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project catalogs the massive harm to park resources that would be caused by road construction. In fact the DEIS finds that every resource examined will suffer major, adverse, long-term or permanent impacts. In other words, constructing the North Shore Road will impair the park. The National Park Service must protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park unimpaired for the enjoyment of all generations.
I strongly support the option of a monetary settlement for Swain County and oppose any additional road construction north of Fontana Lake. The monetary settlement is the only fair solution as it protects the park, immediately benefits the people of Swain County and saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. I urge the Park Service to consider a monetary settle to Swain County and forgo building the North Shore road. Thank you for considering my views.