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Election 2008: Fearless Forecasts, Foregone Conclusions, and Prescient Prognostications


With San Francisco-based Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi empowered beyond her wildest dreams, it’s now a foregone conclusion that Golden Gate National Recreation Area will be “upgraded” to Golden Gate National Parks. The Presidio is virtually certain to get an extra dose of federal goodies, too. Wikipedia photo.

The campaigns are over, the results are in, and it’s time to consider what the 2008 elections portend for the National Park System. Traveler highlights several foregone conclusions, makes a couple of fearless forecasts, and invites you, the readers, to share your prognostications.

With Barack Obama as President-elect, the Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, and the Republican Party in disarray, the safest of all the foregone conclusions is that federal government policies and practices will drift (perhaps veer?) to the left of the path they've followed in recent years. Since strong support of environmental protection laws is a hallmark trait of the left, we can reasonably expect renewed federal zeal for curbing pollution, preserving wildlife habitat, and developing sustainable alternative energy sources. All of this bodes well for the national parks, which have suffered grievously from outside threats and are overdue for a break.

Another foregone conclusion is that the Bush administration will redouble its efforts to weaken environmental protection laws and regulations before the window of opportunity closes. Count on it; the next six weeks will see a veritable torrent of rulings, decrees, and pronouncements whose net effect will be to reduce constraints on resource extraction and wealth generation. This does not bode well for the environmental qualities that the national parks exist to protect.

Now, a couple of fearless forecasts. While these don’t approach the nearly 100 percent certainty of the above-cited foregone conclusions, they do have a comfortable feel about them.

* Nancy Pelosi, now perhaps the most powerful Speaker of the House in modern times, is a San Francisco-based politician. She has dearly wanted to see Golden Gate National Recreation Area “upgraded” to Golden Gate National Parks. (Yes, that's right, plural parks). You can now consider that a done deal. It is a major understatement to say that I don’t trust Ms. Pelosi, who is a whole hell of a lot further to the left of center than the American public, but I do understand the power that her position commands. She will get what she wants in “small” matters like this GGNRA redesignation thing. Go ahead and bet the farm on it. And if you are a Presidio booster, you should be wreathed in smiles. Good things are headed your way.

* Here’s another fearless forecast. Although Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania, never should have been made a national park, and deserves to be abolished at the first available opportunity, this will not happen for at least another four years. In fact, we should not be surprised to see Steamtown re-invigorated with increased funding and other goodies. Vice President-elect Joe Biden is from Scranton, the city that has become a symbol for the Rustbelt America that the federal government is supposed to rescue. Enough said.

* How will the Centennial Initiative fare? That's a very good question. While this bus has left the station, there haven't been many riders on it. Congress failed to fully fund the program -- President Bush wanted Congress to toss in $100 million a year for the next decade, but it only came up with $50 million -- and with the country's current economic malaise, how likely is President-elect Obama to toss the National Park Service an additional $100 million in its budgets? The feeling here is that this initiative will fade ... but hopefully be replaced by the centennial legislation a bipartisan group of senators offered back in April or a similar proposal introduced to the House back in July of 07.

* Yellowstone's snowmobile saga will add yet another chapter, this one with an Obama administration calling for a phase-out of the machines in favor of snowcoaches.

OK; it’s your turn. Tell us what you think the election results mean for the national parks

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When it comes to Steamtown, I'd endorse another left-leaning policy.... "Mend It, Don't End It..."

Maybe with the new administration Delaware will finally get a unit in the National Park System.

G. Pinson: Well said!

I would go one step further and say that only those with "national park" status should be administered by the NPS. The other designations should be managed by different agencies or organizations.

" It is a major understatement to say that I don’t trust Ms. Pelosi, who is a whole hell of a lot further to the left of center than the American public..."

You've just earned my undying respect with that gutsy statement, Bob. I had you all wrong. You're willing to take on politicians from both sides of the aisle. I was about to take your site off my home page, but instead I'll make it mandatory morning reading (even if I disagree occassionally and flame you in a comment).

I'm sure Ms Pelosi has her good points, but she is extremally devisive and provides one of the greatest challenges to President elect Obama's stated goal of bringing our country together.

I live near (and recreate in) the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and don't believe it warrants National Park status, although it should be protected as it currently exists. Being located in the San Francisco Bay area, a stronghold of environmentalism, I feel it's safety is ensured. For those who have never visited GGNRA, it is really a collection of small pieces within an urban environment. Some of the parts are extremely beautiful and others are merely isolated pockets of old military buildings. I would guess that is the reasoning for the plural designation of Parks.

Maybe I'm being silly, but giving a few acres of old warehouses (Ft. Cronkite etc) the same status as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and the Grand Canyon, doesn't set right by me. Even that elegant old fort, the Presidio, doesn't warrant that honor. National Park status should be reserved for truly awe inspiring gradear. Anything less should be a monument, wilderness area or recreation area.

I think that while policies might improve, tight economic times will prevent much investment in parks or wild lands.

Whatever you think the impact of public works was on the economy, it supported people's spirits, and kept some fed. So if times get real bad, we will likely see public works again. But whether it would be a CCC-type program that built a lot of wild infrastructure - well, I'm skeptical.

One other thing. If we do move strongly in the direction of renewable energy, we might have clearer skies in some parks.

PS - The Depression ended with WWII, which had deficits roughly twice those of mid-1930's programs. So maybe they just didn't spend enough?

Net result: wild increase in wilderness designation at the request of the Sierra Club, which will result in banning mountain bikers from hundreds of miles of trails that they currently enjoy.

Other than that, any new policy can't be worse than the old one.

I have hope.................................Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm not much

Iraq, the economy, and the environment(including NPS) ARE connected. It is not so much a "left vs right", but right vs wrong, intellect vs stupidity. For the past eight years(more actually) stupid has ruled.

On economics: Paul Krugman's "The Great Unraveling" has a columns going back to the first Bush administration's blunders, and before. "Bad Money" by Kevin Phillips spells out in more complex writing the failure of politics as economy, and the myth of "capitalism" under neocons that got us into trouble, for a long time. Barney Frank actually has spelled out how they tried to save Fannie Mae, and the public, but were shot down and shafted by Republicans, deregulation, as even Greenspan admitted this week "how could we have known", well very easily, "don't be stupid". Fareed Zakaria does a very good job in "The Post American World" in not spelling out the fall of America, but the RISE of the rest of the world, and how poorly this has been interpreted since the Reagan administration. Reagan inherited a national debt under a trillion dollars. REPUBLICAN spending and policies now have that over $11 TRILLION. "Private" debt is over $60 TRILLION, due to predatory lending policies, and unregulated inflation, especially in housing.

On Iraq, prior to our invasion there was NO Al Qaeda in Iraq. Our operations against them in Bosnia and elsewhere have been thwarted by stupid decisions by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is a mess not so much because of too few troops, as too little intellect. WE by the way, as Charlie Wilson knew, CREATED the Taliban, and through inaction or outright stupidity, Al Qaeda. If Greg Mortenson's philosophy in "Three Cups of Tea" had dominated our foreign policy, instead of the military industrial complex(DON'T get me started), we would have been much better off. My son has been in our "areas of interest" with regard to the "war on terror", and stupid dominates. Using $68,000 Hellfire missiles to do the job a bullet can do for a couple dollars, is an example of how expensive, and stupid we've been. Especially when lousy intelligence has you bombing weddings instead of people with weapons intent on using them. A friend just back from Iraq on leave last week has "interesting" observations.

These tie, believe it or not, directly to the environment, AND preservation of our National Parks and public lands in the fact that we must stop ignoring science, reality, real values, real priorities, real math and economics, and the quality of leadership we select.

I am encouraged and optimistic that we ARE on the threshold of intelligent leadership, that will listen to SOUND advice, and proceed with logic, instead of dogma, as a guide.

It is NOT going to be easy, nor quick, but our most critical resources and lands have been, like the "economy" and "wars" beset by deregulation and MISmanagement by idiots. To be any less direct in the assessment would be an injustice to the public.

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