Dear NPS, Please Plan Ahead


I would only wish that the NPS would develop forward-looking plans rather than ones based on reaction to litigation. nps-planning.jpgManagement by litigation has led to the morass that is the current debacle in Yellowstone. It should not have developed as it did. And, yes ladies, hindsight is 20/20. And I do know how hard it is to drain a swamp when . . . . . .

But; there were sane voices 30 years ago that suggested plowing the roads. There were sane voices that, 15 years ago, approached Bombardier with a request to build a modern, clean, quiet, safe snowcoach. There were sane voices 10 years ago that suggested that pollution levels and not vehicle numbers be used to measure and control pollution impacts in Yellowstone. All were and have been ignored. That’s past and the consequences of today are the results.

Right now there are some real problems that can be planned for without a current pending lawsuit. These problems will affect the whole of the National Park Service; not just Yellowstone. ast-nat.jpgNow is the time for a little anticipatory planning rather than reactive planning.

First and foremost is needed a plan that explains to the public just what is the NPS conception of: “Wild,” “Wilderness,” “Natural,” and the protection of the same. It doesn’t have to be the “capital ‘T’ truth.” It just has to be clear enough so that the public knows what it’s supporting. One voice would be nice; thank you. If the NPS planners and administrators need something to motivate them they should read The New West piece by Bill BorrieTurning Wilderness Into Zoos?” There is no lawsuit, (yet,) there is a sane voice. Please NPS plan for this, and tell us what you’re up to. Should you need additional inspiration just read the “Proceedings of the First Naturalists’ Training Conference.”

And since the NPS has other criteria for parks beside the wild ones, let them explain them as well. Preservation is a delightful word when undefined, as is restoration, as is heritage, as is special interests. Please NPS, spend a bit more time with your plan for ‘transparency.’ It might help when you go to court.

The latest IPCC report has produced a panoply of things to plan for. One that should be current conversation among the NPS “mucky-it-ups” is the drought in the western states. low-water.jpgAre the fire crews and caches prepared to defend against ‘natural’ increases in ‘wildfires’ or is it business as usual? Or is it let it burn? What is being preserved – process or property? One voice?

Should they need a bit of imaginative prodding they should read “Dust Bowl 2.0: Is The Southwest Drying Up?” Water is now, about to become a more critical issue. Will we face problems about water for the parks vs. water for the people?

Is the fuzzy plan to restore Hetch Hetchy going to bring rational conversation or will there be water wars? Of certainty there will be a debate about the role of parks. Are they something of a luxury that a once affluent nation squandered or are they a necessity that need to be ‘preserved?’ Please NPS, think about this coming confrontation. Can you plan for it?

And, as The NPS continues to acquire fleets of people movers to shuttle people around the parks we encourage them to be fully cognizant of the very real need to plan their response to questions about why they did what they did.

Now that CO2 is a Supreme Court certified pollutant, the parks need to understand the feedback mechanisms involved with its production, and the consequences of continued reliance on fossil fuels in their conception of “service.” Perhaps the planners should read “The Global Problematique.” There is a series of decisions that will have to be made very soon about access and visitor capacities and flush toilets and drinking fountains. Do you remember the “pee, no; poo, do” campaign in San Francisco? Please NPS, plan to make the right decisions.

olred.jpgCoastal and island parks are going to have to decide how to cope with their disappearing resources, or the disappearance of whole parks. How many old growth redwoods will be lost? Is ‘natural’ or ‘trees’ more important? What are they going to protect? Is it a wild tide pool or a artificially maintained one for public viewing? Is it a sea-walled fortress or a new beach? What is wild? One voice? This is closer than they think. Please NPS, think in these terms – it will save you money and lawsuits.

What about the parks that depend on lush vegetation and animal assemblages? Is irrigation in the plan? Is ‘natural transition’ in the vocabulary? Why are we buying Canadian Maple Syrup? Will there be a plan to abandon parks that no longer have the vegetation to support their status? How fast can a redwood forest migrate? What is the plan for ‘preservation,’ ‘restoration,’ ‘perpetuation,’ if there is one? There can be!

Of course, Yellowstone and her cheerleaders use an insidious form of vocabulary manipulation when talking about the verities within the park. This year there is “favorable weather” and the snow covered roads can be opened on time.

In a few years the ‘unfavorable weather‘ will persist through the winter and there will be very little snow to plow. What is the plan to deal with this shocking change in weather vocabulary. Will the NPS make snow to put on the roads? What is ‘natural’ and what is being preserved? I can guarantee that there will be a lawsuit to put snow on the roads if the NPS continues to sponsor and subsidize over-the-snow travel. And, I guarantee that I will live long enough to see it.

Where will the water for toilets and electricity for new facilities come from? How many visitor centers are necessary to interpret the “wild-natural-wilderness-preserved & restored by the NPS?” Are photovoltaics and other forms of energy mandated in design criteria? Energy will continue to cost more in a world changed by and changing in response to global warming. Perhaps the planners should read the précis in the L.A. Times: “Earth faces a grim future if global warming isn’t slowed, U.N. report says.”

Perhaps now is the time to really think about the “Partners” that the NPS allows to ‘sign on.’ and perhaps now is the time to dump partners that do not fit with a sound plan for the future. Why not compare BP and it’s involvement with the future of energy with that of Conoco? Who is the best “partner?” Both? Neither? Please NPS be a bit more discriminating about your bed partners. STD’s can be fatal.

I’m not making this up. It’s happening now. We are pretending that adaptation by human societies will solve the problems – we’ll see. In the right sidebar is a link to the NRDC. Click on the post that fits. Their summation scares even me.

Now; not next week, or next month, or next year, or next decade, but NOW is the time to begin planning for these kinds of things, and many more. Because I can promise that if the NPS does not plan for the future they will continue in their management by litigation mode, and all the parks will suffer – and so will the public, and so will I. And I will have to pay for it in many ways.


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