2007 is just about history. 2008, though, is still unvarnished, full of hope and promise. With that in mind, what will the new year bring to the national park system? Here's some wishful thinking....
In the coming 12 months I'd like to see:
* Congressmen Mark Souder, R-Indiana, and Brian Baird, D-Washington, finally release the findings of their lengthy investigation into the condition of the national park system. It's a shame that all the time and expense that went into their subcommittee meetings is going for naught just because they're no longer on those committees.
* An amicable solution to the legal wrangling over the Yosemite's Merced River Plan.
* A return of the $50 National Parks Pass.
I'm not the only one hoping for a brighter future of the national parks in 2008. Here are some thoughts from the National Parks Conservation Association:
* Congress and the administration need to continue to invest in our national parks next year, and in the years leading up to the parks’ centennial. The National Park Service needs funds to provide adequate services for nearly 300 million annual visitors, protect archaeological sites and historic buildings, address the parks’ extensive list of backlogged maintenance and preservation projects, including visitor centers and restrooms that are in bad shape, and to acquire land inside park boundaries, some of which is now threatened with development.
* Congress launched the National Park Centennial Challenge by providing nearly $25 million in the fiscal year 2008 omnibus bill. Now Congress just needs to pass legislation to authorize this new, 10-year-long program, which would augment annual appropriations and match private investments with federal funds to complete important park projects and programs.
*Congress and the Administration must enforce the Clean Air Act and put the brakes on dirty, coal-fired power plants and other polluters that are now making national park air unhealthy for people and wildlife and exacerbating the harmful affects of global warming.
* "I'd like to see the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates make protection of our national parks a campaign priority," says Sean Smith, NPCA's Pacific Northwest regional director. "I'd also hope for several new parks to be added to the northwest, including the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail and Bainbridge Island National Internment Memorial. Finally, we'd hope Congress will elevate Mount St. Helens to a national park, as well as expand the boundaries of Oregon Caves National Monument and Olympic National Park."