Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Fragility of Wilderness Designation.

Everyone thinks that if an area can just become a National Monument or a National Wilderness Area or even a National Park that it will be protected. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Did you know National Parks can lose their status and be abolished as a National Park? One of these is high on my list to visit one of these days: It was once called Platt National Park, but lost that status and ended up being rolled up into a larger entity called Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
CCC-improved area at the former Platt National Park.
The second National Park ever established in the US (Mackinack National Park) was de-listed and handed over to the state of Michigan.
One National Park site was not only delisted as a National Historic Park site but was completely sold off to a private investor. It's now called Mar-A-Lago. Owned by you-know-who.
Keep in mind that National Park status does not necessarily mean safety for those Parks. It is all a matter of the whims of successive governments.
You can read about all of our de-listed National Parks at this website.
And keep in mind that this problem is ongoing. The pressure to dismantle our system of National Parks and Monuments and wilderness areas is never ending. Not many years ago a piece of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was given over to the Cherokee Reservation in exchange for a similar parcel of land near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Park status is not a complete protection, at all. It should be, but it is not.
Over the course of my life I have seen the nation go through periods of economic blight. During the worst such times the first things on the chopping block are generally state parks. Governments will complain that there is not enough revenue to support the parks and they begin shutting them down. I have even seen some states seriously consider selling off established state parks to get them off the books and to do favors for wealthy prospective real estate investors.
On our recent trip to Florida my wife and I did some research on the state park system in Alabama. Because there is some gorgeous scenery in that state and a few parks there were on our radar to visit.
One of these parks is called Buck's Pocket. I never got to visit it when I was a kid and passed it a number of times, but I have always wanted to go there and hike, camp, and kayak. It had a reputation for natural beauty and wilderness. So Carole and I began to do our research for visiting it for a few days to camp and hike. Always first on our to-do is check on campground details, including rates and amenities.
Imagine my horror when we learned that the campground has been permanently closed. They don't even want campers there. And why? Because the Alabama legislature decided that the best use for that park was to slap miles of All Terrain Vehicle routes all over it. Think of that: the wild place is now going to be home to noisy ATVs and their equally vile operators. You can kiss the idea of wilderness, silence, and solitude a permanent goodbye.
Read it and weep.
It has been a long time since a significant National Park was created in the US. Despite the fact that there are places in the country that deserve National Park status and protection (shaky though that protection might be). Every year I see Wilderness Study Areas passed by because we have legislatures who are completely unfriendly to preservation and only open to the direct economic exploitation of our natural resources. We're in a sick situation.
In the past some Presidents have been able to bypass unfriendly legislators and create National Monuments in place of National Parks. (Thanks, Theodore Roosevelt!) This would give worthy places increased protected status and some amount of infrastructure, even if only managerial. But now even this is under attack.
The way things are currently headed, it would not surprise me to soon see mining, timber, and gas extractions going on in our National Parks.
It's a sad and dangerous situation for all of us.
View at Buck's Pocket State Park. The Alabama government thought the park would be improved by closing the campground and restrooms and instead slap miles of ATV trails through the forest. Thanks, assholes!


Mark said...

Do you mind if I link this post to my blog?

James Robert Smith said...

I don't mind at all.