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November/December 2005

The Future Of National Parks

Everyone loves national parks--but are they being loved to death? Join representatives from the Park Service, Department of the Interior, Sierra Club, American Hiking Society, and more to explore the fate of this embattled American institution.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE PARKS WILL FACE?

Scott Silver The parks are not democratic anymore. We are running the parks for the benefit of the tourism and travel industry and motorized recreation industry. The parks have become the anchor stores, so to speak–bringing business to gateway communities. But the parks are not anchor stores; they’re an anchor to our traditions, our heritage. National parks are America’s equivalent of Europe’s cathedrals.

Fran Mainella I do think the relevance of our national park system in the 21st century is a major concern. If we are not staying relevant to our young people today and to our different cultures, that’ll be a big danger for us in the future.

Robert Arnberger We have increasing numbers of citizens from Latin America and Asia coming here for the fruits of democracy, and they often come from places with degraded environments or that lack a tradition of national parks. Well, those people are going to become a voting majority. Will they believe in our democratic ideals and take care of the parks?

J.T. Reynolds I’m sure the future will involve the same challenges that we veterans have been dealing with for 30-plus years–not having enough human and financial resources to get all that’s necessary done. Even when things are prioritized, they will still triage high-priority items. But the medium-priority things are very important, too.

Jerry Rogers If only one or two parks have ever done comprehensive species inventories and you don’t know which creatures are out there, how are you going to know whether you’re helping them or hurting them? Ditto for archaeological sites. There are thousands of sites in the park system, the vast majority of which have never been identified. And the park service tends to discover them when it’s building a road.

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