“Within our national parks,
There will be room,
For both our wild animals,
And for all of us,
To find ourselves, to think, and to hope,
To dream and to plan, to rest, and to resolve.”
Enos A. Mills,
The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park
I have visited Rocky Mountain National Park, and many of the other glorious national parks in the United States over the past 50 years, and I for one, have always loved them. And I for one have always been extremely grateful that both concerned citizens and our government had both the foresight and the initiative to preserve some of our far too rapidly diminishing wilderness areas for future generations of Americans to enjoy.
The scenery in these national parks has always been breath-taking; the air and landscape quite pristine; and the joy and serenity to be found within them has always been beyond compare.
And the numerous wild animals that inhabit our national park system have continued to capture both the curiosity and the hearts of American citizens over the years. The opportunity to observe many of these magnificent animals in a very natural setting has also been a major drawing card for our national parks such as Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Everglades, and many more.
America’s national parks have always provided some of the best, and sadly, some of the very last, remaining habitats for countless North American animal species.
But very sadly to me, and to many other nature lovers, our national park system today is now headed for ruin. And we, the American people, are letting it happen right under our noses.
What kind of modern legacy will we be leaving to our children, and to our grandchildren? And what will future generations of soon to be deprived Americans think of us for allowing it to happen so easily?
Today, most of our national parks are increasingly being damaged, parceled off, and pilfered by endless urban development, by air and water pollution, by far too much uncontrolled recreational usage, and even worse, by very callous and very greedy modern day business concerns.
Today, both our national parks and our remaining American wildlife are in great jeopardy.
To me, and to many others, these national parks and their magnificent flora and fauna are among America’s greatest remaining treasures; yet we are indifferently sitting by as our politicians and our corporations decimate them, instead of helping us to protect and to preserve them as intended by our forefathers.
‘The Roadless Rule,’ once sacred in our national park system, has now been quickly swept away to make it much easier for modern day business concerns, logging interests, and mining companies to pursue their gluttonous business interests, and their huge profits.
On an ever increasing basis, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, and motorbikes are now tearing up delicate ecosystems and natural habitats in our once pristine national parks.
More and more of our endangered wildlife are being targeted for slaughter by modern day commercial interests inside national park boundaries, and directly adjacent to them.
Our once treasured historic national park lodges and rustic old inns are now rapidly being sold off and torn down by both foreign and domestic business concerns, many of them now regarding our once treasured national park wildlife as ‘nuisances,’ or as ‘easy meal tickets’ for hungry overseas meat and fur markets.
Business lobbyists, our legislators, and even our President, are increasingly calling for more and more commercialization and destruction of our remaining national park system.
Our government is already allowing corporations to sponsor corporate events on our national park land; to post gaudy advertisements for their modern products on our hiking trails and ski areas; and new Forest Service rules even override any state laws prohibiting advertisements for tobacco, liquor, and gambling on federal land.
Many of us already have extremely horrifying visions of our once pristine national parks soon becoming just another modern day blight on the land – filled with junky corporate billboards, garish strip malls, gigantic subdivisions, resort hotels, casinos, golf courses, even more abysmal junk food restaurant chains, and worst of all, toxic waste dumps.
A gigantic modern day cell phone tower already hideously looms almost directly over Old Faithful. Reports indicate that the National Park Service no longer even knows how many of these gigantic cell phone towers now loom over our national park system because many of these modern day business deals are conveniently made in private - out of public scrutiny.
Our National Park Rangers are also probably the most revered of all our government employees – and deservedly so. Yet, even they are in danger of losing more and more of their jobs since many of our leaders now propose ‘out-sourcing’ more and more of these once extremely needed government jobs to private, modern day, contractors.
A recent White House Privatization Plan called for the transfer of more than one half of our National Park jobs - including rangers, firefighters, archaeologists, and biologists - to private business contractors.
And I for one, doubt very seriously that these private contractors will love our national park system, and its many wild creatures, as much as these extremely dedicated public servants do, and have always done.
But even sadder to me, and to many others, is what private business concerns and powerful sporting interests have in store for, and are already doing to, our once revered national park wildlife, magnificent scenery, and delicate ecosystems.
In the last few years, the National Park Service has allowed the killing of more than 3,000 Yellowstone Park wild bison (American Buffalo). Modern day business lobbyists claim they eat too much of ‘our’ grass.
The Katmai bear population is one of the most photographed wildlife species remaining in the world today. Thousands of visitors flock to Alaska each year to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
Yet the Alaska Board of Game is now allowing brown bears to be hunted beyond what is sustainable in Katmai National Preserve--and they are opening up 95,000 additional acres of land right inside Katmai National Park to bear hunting for the first time in decades.
These wild mustangs have freely roamed the American West for centuries, and today, even on our once protected national park land, they are being slaughtered at an ever increasing rate. Why? To feed a ravenous overseas human market for horseflesh, and to appease modern day cattle ranchers.
These huge modern day cattle ranchers lease our national park land at a fraction of the cost to graze their cattle on privately owned land, yet they be-grudge the wild stallion’s continued presence on it, and that of the American Bison – on our public land – and our own government is allowing them to do so. But so are we all.
Over 20,000 wild mustangs have recently been rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management; and they now plan on slaughtering them.
Our government sought to completely wipe out wolves in most of America’s national parks beginning in the 19th century, and by 1926, they had successfully done so.
But beginning in the 1940s, as more and more biologists slowly came to understand the extremely important and very necessary role of predators in any natural ecosystem, a strong constituency was built up in favor of restoring wolves to national park areas where they had been extirpated. Thus, the Wolf was once again protected, and it was soon added to the ever increasing North American Endangered Animal Species List.
But despite this federal protection and the current public sentiment in favor of our wolves, these once nearly extinct wild animals are once again in modern day crosshairs. At least 21 reintroduced Mexican wolves have been illegally shot in New Mexico and Arizona on or near public land. There are dozens of unsolved grey wolf killings in the state of Idaho, where they have also been reintroduced by the government; and, unbelievably, Alaskan wildlife officials have now resumed aerial gunning of wolves to maximize their moose and caribou herds for out of state hunters with lots of cash. In recent weeks, dozens of both adult timber wolves and wolf pups, have been shot down from the Alaskan skies.
Elk hunting is also a multi-million-dollar sporting event on the public lands that surround Yellowstone National Park, and today, sport hunters seem to be a very powerful political constituency as well. Many of these elk hunters now blame wolves for decimating Yellowstone’s current elk population, and efforts are once again underway to eradicate them. But wolves are just one small factor in our ever increasing elk population decline.
As wolves were being reintroduced to these national park areas, wildlife officials also increased elk-hunt quotas to appease these hunters, and a very prolonged drought, probably caused by Global Warming, is quickly reducing their once abundant forage, diminishing our elk numbers even more.
Many members of the cattle and sheep ranching community, another very powerful modern day interest group, also claim that these wolves are now threatening their modern day livelihood. A century ago, livestock predation was a serious concern in America. Today, however, wolves account for only a tiny fraction of livestock deaths.
Moreover, ranchers who lose any livestock to wolves today are compensated for their losses by the government; yet, they too, no longer wish to share our nation with the once again beleaguered wolf.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, which sits on the Canadian border, is one of my favorite national parks; I’ve visited there many times; and its scenery is quite spectacular. Yet, it could very soon be turned into an abysmal Modern Day Waste Dump.
That’s the hideous sight that might soon greet Glacier Park visitors if a huge modern mining corporation gets its way – and they probably will. This corporation is proposing a massive open-pit coal mine operation in the headwaters of the Flathead River, which forms Glacier Park’s western boundary.
This massive open-pit mine would sit directly within the spectacular views of Glacier National Park, and it would include several massive waste dumps on the river. The Flathead River supports a wide array of wildlife, including wolves, lynx, moose, and the extremely endangered grizzly bear. Furthermore, the contaminated mine runoff would threaten the already jeopardized trout population in this once very pristine river system.
This is just a tiny glimpse of the extremely grim future of America’s National Park System, and the very grim future of its once protected and revered wild animals. There are many more horrifying stories today, and some of them are occurring at a national park near your own home.
What’s happened to our very sage American idea of serene, natural, federally protected wilderness areas that all Americans could enjoy – for countless American generations to come?
What’s happened to all of us, and to our modern day value system? And to our once great concern for future generations of our fellow citizens, and the future of wildlife not yet born on this continent?
In just eight short years, America will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of our National Park System. But I now have to wonder if many of our once revered national parks will even exist anymore in the year 2016 - in the way they were once envisioned to continue to exist, in perpetuity, and in harmony with nature, by Enos Mills and many other dedicated American conservationists.
“National Parks will be our islands of safety in this riotous world.
Splendid forests, the waterfalls that leap in glory,
The wildflowers that charm and illuminate the earth,
The wild sheep of the sky-line crags, and the beauty of the birds;
All will have places of refuge, right here, in our national parks.”
Enos A. Mills,
I sadly wonder what wise old Enos would think about the extremely sad plight of our national parks today.
If we care at all about America’s National Park System, and what’s very hideously happening to it today, it’s about high time we all do something about it – before it’s much too late.
©2008, Mr. Ed
An Excerpt from Where The Redwing Sings