Our national parks: a vision for the second century
by John Byrne and Vicky Hoover
In 2016, America’s National Park Service will celebrate its 100th birthday.
The Sierra Club’s National Parks and Monuments Team wants to share with you our exciting vision for the second century of the National Park Service. National parks are America’s marvelous contribution to the world.
Our vision focuses on three major concerns that people didn’t have 100 years ago, but that today are prevalent in our society: natural areas disappearing, people separated from nature, and the onset of global climate change.
Disappearance of our natural areas
A preliminary gap analysis shows that we must create 38 new national parks or similar areas, and expand or change designation in 28 others. This will protect habitat for the biodiversity of our flora and fauna that make up our natural world as ecosystems evolve and adapt to global climate change. By protecting natural areas that represent all parts of our natural world, we cannot only better enjoy nature, we can also learn what we must do to protect the world in which we and our fellow species live.
An expanded network of parks is also needed to provide nearby places for more people to visit—both to lessen generation of greenhouse gases from flying and driving to parks and to provide convenient close-to-home places for people to appreciate their natural and cultural heritage.
Connecting people with nature
We need to expand education programs in national parks to help all visitors learn about our natural world. These programs should be connected to the Internet so national parks can be learned about and appreciated by everybody, all the time. On-site programs should attract teachers and students. Classrooms should be linked to parks though the internet throughout the academic year.
We should consider reducing park entrance fees, not raising them. Entrance fees discourage use, aggravating an already significant decline in visitation. Fees disproportionately affect people with lower incomes and contribute but a nickel to the National Park Service budget dollar.
Fighting global climate change
We see all our national parks vigorously promoting public transportation so that people will be able to go to national parks on trains or other public transit and, once there, able to appreciate our natural world without a car. Parks can be a model of zero emissions.
The United States invented the National Park, but today we lag behind other countries in using national parks to learn about, protect, and perpetuate our natural world. Expanding our system of National Parks should be the prime goal of the Second Century of our National Park System.