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

I don't think they mean too much. The new administration and Congress are going to be focused on the financial meltdown, and national parks won't even been the tiniest blip on their radar. As the national debt balloons and the dollar depreciates, look for national parks to be overlooked by the federal government.

A great question.... Here's a few of my guesses!

1. Science will no longer be disrespected.
2. Some sort of public works bill will be passed to put people to work and to rebuild public infrastructure in parks and forests.
3. The Endangered Species Act will be restored to its original scope... at least.
4. The Secretary of the Interior will actually be an environmentally concerned person!

"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; one must take it because it is right. ......Martin Luther King, Jr.

An obvious method to support the economy in form of small and mid-size businesses is investing in infrastructure. Highways, bridges, and the like. In this the new administration might look at the New Deal. Working on the backlog of infrastructure maintenance in the parks might become a part of a larger program. It could work all over the country and involve almost exclusively small and mid-size building businesses. And it would be a relatively cheap but highly symbolic strategy if the new president wishes to portrait himself and his politics as "green".

A public works bill could spell economic disaster. "Hoover admitted that his public works program, which had nearly doubled Federal construction since the start of the depression, had failed. It was very expensive, costing over $1200 per family aided..." A new public works could have terrible effects on public confidence and could lead to further weakening of bank credit. Money printed out of thin air would increase inflation and the national deficit. Wages must fall in proportion to the decline of commodity prices, in order to eliminate unemployment. Government employment at existing high wage rates would perpetuate the unemployment problem.

It wasn't public works that got us out of the Depression. In fact, public works may have prolonged the Depression.

I am, by nature, an optimist. I think the election means that the new administration will be represented by people who are not relentlessly anti-environment. That does not mean that I think that money will fall out of the sky and land in the budget of the NPS. It does mean, however, that superintendents will be able to count on the support of staffers in the Interior Department. There will, I believe, be greater confidence in the points of view of NPS employees. There will be better working relationships between career employees and political appointees. I think there will be greater reliance on the results of sound science and research upon which to base planning and management decisions and fewer attempts to "doctor" these results to support narrow partian interests. I also believe that the comments of the public that accompany most environmental and cultural planning processes will not be ignored or dismissed as they often have been in the recent past.

I am hoping that transparency will be the hallmark of the new adminstration. I am tired of the secrecy, the late Friday afternoon press releases announcing major decisions, and the catering to special interests that seemed to be the order of the day at the DOI. I am hoping that I don't have to read anymore Inspector General reports
on scandals related to oil and gas royalties or influence peddling at the highest levels of the Department. As a former DOI (NPS) employee, those stories embarrassed me. We don't need any more of this kind of abuse of the public trust.

I was impressed by the dignity of the remaks by Senator McCain in his concession speech on Tuesday evening. As he urged, I hope that we can determine what the highest priorities are for the next couple years and work together to address the issues we face. If, in the process, we decide that some chronic NPS issues must remain unaddressed until later, we can at least be assured that the priorites were chosen based on urgency, not on narrow partisanship.

Rick Smith

I am not expecting a whole lot of change real quickly.. but am hopefully that the move to the left will result in better policies to protect our environment & endangered species. Stopping the economic slide I hope will be top on the radar.

OnDaRoad are all so funni...except Frank C.
Obama has ONE national park in his home state...and how many people of color visit our parks? Not many.
Frank C is right...there will be NO money to give. In fact, Bush offered up more to the parks in his last budget (Centennial money) than Obama I said, I don't think The One cares much for nature, being from Chicago.
McCain has 19 parks; Palin 17 in their respective states.
There isn't much money to be had in this entitlement-rich government. And yes, it is ENTITLEMENTS (including welfare) and Fannie and Freddie...thanks to DEMOCRATS Barney Frank and Chris Dodd that has bankrupted us. NOT the war in Iraq. The money spent in Iraq is a drop in the bucket compared to entitlements.
Sad to say, McCain/Palin would have given more to the parks if any smidgen of money was available!

@ Frank C.: Come on, you point me to a paper on the New Deal by the Mises Institute to prove something? That paper is not analytic, it's not scientific, it is pure and simple ideology. The same ideology that got us into the mess back then and now.

Regarding the national parks this papers description of the New Deal and the Public Works is one sided and (deliberately) incomplete. It mentions that the Roosevelt administration noticed the short comings of the projects but it completely ignores that the programs were not carved in stone but used flexible and adopted over time to cover more people and more regions.

Contracts for local businesses under the New Deal were widely spread, from building the chalet at Oregon Caves National Monument to blasting a tunnel and building a paved road on top of Scotts Bluff National Monument in Nebraska to the parkway that was recently covered here on the Traveller. The CCC worked at and around Grand Canyon and in remote parts of the West such as Devils Tower NM.

Infrastructure has been neglected - remember the collapsing bridge in Minneapolis? Investing into it seems to be the most efficient way to support small and mid-size businesses. Invest in bridges, in insulation of public and private buildings, and in the maintenance backlog of the national parks.

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