|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Mexican cartel grow operations polluting forests, endangering visitorsSome of our national parks and forests are becoming a bit less Into the Wild and more No Country For Old Men, thanks to Mexican marijuana cartels who squat on federal land to start massive grow operations. Perhaps worst of all, they often severely trash and pollute the land with toxic chemicals used to procure larger crops. From AP:
"What's going on on public lands is a crisis at every level," said Forest Service agent Ron Pugh. "These are America's most precious resources, and they are being devastated by an unprecedented commercial enterprise conducted by armed foreign nationals. It is a huge mess."The drug cartels dump plant growth hormones into streams, divert water from intended sources with PVC pipes, and cover the ground in rat poison to keep animals away from their cash crops. The growers also poach deer, bears, and other animals, and they cause incalculable damage by creating an illegal network of unofficial trails.
"People light up a joint, and they have no idea the amount of environmental damage associated with it," said Cicely Muldoon, deputy regional director of the Pacific West Region of the National Park Service.
All in all, bad news for the environmentally-conscious who occasionally spark a doob. This is bound to harsh a lot of mellows.
Georgia girl hopes to visit all 391 National Parks before age 14There's nothing more I'd like to do than spend all my days visiting every national park in the park system. Working at BACKPACKER certainly helps, but this thing called the Internet keeps dragging me back to society.
“I enjoy going to the parks because I learn about the historical, cultural and environmental relevance they each have,” said Chandler.With only 121 parks to go, she's well over halfway there, but she'll have to amp up her frequency to meet her goal (though if she doesn't make it until, say, age 16, I certainly wouldn't hold it against her). Chandler's favorite park so far is Yellowstone, and not surprisingly, she'd like to work for the NPS someday.
“I want to be a National Parks interpreter when I grow up,” Chandler said. “Someone who informs visitors and talks about the parks.”I'd say she's already overqualified, and perhaps aiming a little low. Is there a National Parks Overlord position open?
Popular feature in Arches National Park succumbs to erosionPour a forty, sandstone formation fans: Wall Arch, one of the most popular and most photographed arches of Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, has collapsed. We knew this day would come, geologically speaking, but that doesn't make it any easier to take when it happens [sniff, sniff].
"They all let go after a while," he said Friday.You said it, brother. Like dust in the wind...all we are is dust in the wind.
You may not have heard, but Saturday kicked off the first National Park Week, a Presidentially-endorsed celebration of our many natural and historic national parks. National Park Week runs through Sunday, April 27. From the mouth of President Bush himself:
"Our National Parks belong to each of us, and they are natural places to learn, exercise, volunteer, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the magnificent beauty of our great land. During National Park Week and throughout the year, Americans of all ages can pledge to help maintain and enhance America's national treasures for future generations.That sounds serious — we better get out there. Several national parks have scheduled official events for National Park Week, including outdoor skills schools, nature walks, and Junior Ranger days. And, in another bit of auspicious timing, the first roads have opened up in both Yellowstone and Glacier. The holiday seems a bit early, considering that summer remains the busiest season for most national parks, but maybe even the Fed prefers to avoid bear jams on Going-to-the-Sun road.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 19 through April 27, 2008, as National Park Week. I invite all my fellow citizens to join me in celebrating America's national parks by visiting these wonderful spaces, discovering all they have to offer, and becoming active participants in park conservation."
Back in 2004, Congress passed a measure to more than double the size of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, but it never happened because the government couldn't come up with the scratch to pay for the surrounding land. Now the ranchers who own those valuable tracts have grown tired of waiting, and they've put their land up for sale to the highest bidder, giving buyers the chance to build subdivisions and other developments on unique natural habitat.
"I have a lot more petroglyphs (ancient rock art) on my place than the park has," Fitzgerald noted. "We had a ranger come through here and he says, 'Gosh, you've got enough for two national parks.' "
Fitzgerald said he thought his lands would be purchased within a few years, but nothing happened. Last month, he quit waiting and put up a "For Sale" sign, with an asking price of $10.5 million.
The 125,000-acre expansion is valued at $20 million, and Congress has appropriated $44.4 million for National Parks expansion purchases in 2008. Still, the Petrified Forest expansion is just one site on the National Park Service's 1.8 billion-acre wish list. But it's in the top five, so keep your fingers crossed.
Just yesterday, we posted an item concerning the heavy influx of toxic sulfur dioxide gas at the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The poisonous gas forced park officials to close sections of the park, but they mentioned at the time that chances for an explosive eruption were minimal.
Hankering for a little canyon action? Ready to turn in your snow skivvies for desert duds? Well, mark your calendars: Zion National Park resumes shuttle service March 21, signaling the official start of the 2008 season.
Trees aren’t the only green things that wildfires are burning through these days. They’re also toasting your money.
Once again, the Golden State finds itself in a face-off with the federal government, this time over a U.S. Forest Service management plan that would open four southern California national forests up to road construction and oil drilling. The state filed suit Thursday to protect the Los Padres, Cleveland, Angeles, and San Bernardino national forests—public lands stretching from Big Sur to the Mexican border and providing habitat for at least 60 threatened or endangered animal and plant species—alleging the Forest Service is violating several federal management laws by not coordinating with state and local officials.
This week, Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne announced plans to review laws banning guns in national parks and on land administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service. After the review, the department will draft new gun rules by April 30 for public comment. Several conservation groups and ranger associations have already spoken out against the review. Not surprisingly, the NRA supports the review and the accompanying senate bill, which sprung from a letter written to Kempthorne by Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo. Both Crapo and the NRA claim that the need for guns in national parks stems not from a desire to hunt, but from the necessity to protect oneself and family from both violent crime and vicious animals.
Your chances of encountering violent crime in our national parks is very small — about 1 in 708,333, according to park officials. But maybe the stats don't tell the whole story: The last time I was in Yellowstone, this ground squirrel was totally throwin' gang signs at me. My tentmates didn't catch it, but I've been down those mean streets before. Interior Department reviewing gun restrictions at national parks (Dallas Observer)—Ted Alvarez
"Law-abiding citizens should not be prohibited from protecting themselves and their families while enjoying America's national parks and wildlife refuges," said Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist.