Critics of the National Park Service's mandate to conserve natural resources often say the national parks were not intended to be kept inside bell jars. And that's certainly not happening. Proof can be seen in how the loss of cougars is thought to be adversely affecting Yosemite National Park and the recent rush to find uranium near Grand Canyon National Park.
The latest news from Yosemite -- in addition to that regarding the stalled Merced River Plan and the dangerous state of the Wawona Tunnel -- demonstrates just how fragile the national park's natural resources are. According to a cougar study conducted by Oregon State University researchers, the loss of cougars from Yosemite has created a cascade of impacts that has knocked the park's ecology off-balance.
A new study of Yosemite National Park concludes that the displacement of cougars in the 1920s and a resulting increase in deer populations are what set the stage for the ongoing demise of black oak trees – a key element of the park’s plant and wildlife ecology.
... What was once considered a radical and unproven theory about the ecological importance of top predators now appears to be a trend seen across the canyons and mountains of the American West.
Of course, not everyone is sold on the researchers' analysis and conclusions. Check out the San Francisco Chronicle's take on this development at this site.
And, of course, those who closely followed the environmental and conservation writings of Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson will no doubt recall the tales of the Kaibab mule deer collapse that resulted early in the 20th Century as the result of extermination of the resident mountain lion population. In short, without the lions to keep the mule deer population in check, the numbers swelled so high that the landscape could no longer support such high numbers.
While wildlife is the issue at Yosemite, radioactive ore is in the news at the Grand Canyon. Here's a look at how the Los Angeles Times is handling the story:
Thanks to renewed interest in nuclear power, the United States is on the verge of a uranium mining boom, and nowhere is the hurry to stake claims more pronounced than in the districts flanking the Grand Canyon's storied sandstone cliffs.
On public lands within five miles of Grand Canyon National Park, there are now more than 1,100 uranium claims, compared with just 10 in January 2003, according to data from the Department of the Interior.
Back in March the Traveler touched on this issue, pointing out a lawsuit filed by conservation groups to halt one company's exploration for the ore.