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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 SHOULD THE NPS’S MISSION BE: CONSERVATION OF RESOURCES OR THE ENJOYMENT OF VISITORS?

Robert Arnberger The law is very clear: The Organic Act created the parks to conserve the scenery and the wildlife therein. It’s one of the few pieces of legislation in our nation that specifies we do something for generations not yet born. And it’s under constant assault of reinterpretation.

Randall Kendrick Park-service managers and their superiors at Interior act as though the protection of park resources is not a high priority simply by the staff levels they maintain.

Gale Norton Trying to manage visitor use and resource protection is a constant balancing act. The parks are going to have to do that for the long-term future. The law that establishes the park system has the tension within it of trying to balance current enjoyment and future protection of the parks.

Michael Scott I would suggest it’s not a balance. The first duty of the NPS is to make sure resources are protected. If that doesn’t happen, you gradually go down a slippery slope to where you wake up 20 years from now and say, “Look what we lost.” You have to protect the values of the parks. That’s what draws 3 million people to Yellowstone every year–not blinking neon lights and a casino on Yellowstone Lake.

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