Tuesday, January 11, 2011

National Parks

Mark your calendars! The National Park Service has announced 17 free admission days to parks here in the U.S. in 2011:
  • Jan. 15 - Jan.17 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend)
  • April 16 - April 24 (National Park Week)
  • June 21st (1st day of summer)
  • Sept. 24th (National Public Lands Day)
  • Nov. 11 - Nov.13 (Veterans Day weekend)
On these days, entrance fees and commercial tour fees will be waived and discounts will be offered at many concessions on food, lodging, tours, and souvenirs.

Speaking of national parks, here's a bit of news from last summer that may have flown under the national - let alone international - radar. In July it was announced that the state of Wyoming was planning to sell off 2 square miles of land within Grand Teton National Park. While it is not the most popular park in the NPS system (it is #15 on this list) and it doesn't have a webcam, Grand Teton has had 128 million visitors since it was established in 1929. The sliver of land in question - appraised at $107 million - was given to the state by the Federal Government in 1890. It was intended to generate income for education, but leasing it for cattle grazing raises only $3,000 per year, so Governor Dave Freudenthal proposed selling the land to the highest bidder. Unless the Federal Government buys the land back, or it is turned into a state park, it would open the park up to private development.

As I learned when researching this post, there are similar issues in many of our national parks. The Federal Government can't afford to purchase the more than 4 million acres of private lands interwoven within the park system. "The consequence is we have a lot of land and a lot of important buildings and cultural features that are not owned or protected by the National Park Service and that are vulnerable to be subdivided or developed or sold and used in ways that are inappropriate for a national park," says Ron Tipton of the National Park Conservation Association. But even the lands that are in the National Park System are at risk of exploitation, specifically commercial bioprospecting. What would Teddy Roosevelt say?

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