Judging from the lobbying that revolves around the national parks, it's easy to see that local interests view the parks as local treasures, not the national jewels that they are.
Look at how the state of Wyoming and the town of Cody, located 50-some miles to the east of Yellowstone National Park, convinced Yellowstone officials to reverse their intention to close the park's east entrance to snowmobiling. Look at how Alaska officials hold sway over tourism (ie. cruise ships into Glacier Bay National Park) and hunting (ie. bear hunting in Katmai National Preserve) decisions involving national parks in their state.
At the Association of National Park Rangers, President-elect Scott McElveen would like to see that change.
"My first wish would be that decision-makers (Congress, Secretary of the Interior, National Park Service senior management, park superintendents) base their decisions affecting parks and park operations on the national interest, as opposed to regional or local interests or pressures," replied Mr. McElveen, who takes office January 1, when I asked what he'd like to see in 2008 for the national park system.
"Stephen Mather said it best when he said, 'These parks do not belong to one state or to one section. They have become democratized. The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona....Who will gainsay that the parks contain the highest potentialities of national pride, national contentment, and national health? A visit inspires love of country; begets contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the antidote for national restlessness...He is a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the national parks.'
"My second wish," Mr. McElveen continued, "would be that senior NPS managers return to allowing the hiring of the combined park ranger protection/interpretation positions in those locations where the law enforcement caseload does not require that primary protection rangers be used."
During 2008 ANPR will be working not only to better the NPS and bolster its membership, which currently counts more than 1,000 NPS employees, but also to foster future park rangers through the creation of college ANPR chapters.
"College courses can only go so far in convincing a hiring official that you should be the one selected for the job. Membership in ANPR provides opportunities to work on task groups, position papers, and/or campaigns for specific NPS issues," says the association.
"If you don't already have a job with the NPS, what better way to gain specific experience on current issues side-by-side with NPS employees?"