Well, here it is, January 1. Out with 2008, in with 2009. And that means it's time to look ahead to the new year and dream about what we'd like to see happen across the National Park System in the coming 12 months.
Call them New Year's Resolutions, or New Year's Hopes, but here's an incomplete list (in no specific order) of what the Traveler would like to see occur in the system in the year ahead:
* That the incoming Obama administration fully funds the National Park Service and, with Congress' support, arrives at a workable solution to the agency's nearly $9 billion maintenance backlog.
* That the next National Park Service director not only be freed of political blinders, but conduct a top-to-bottom review of the agency to eliminate redundancies, excesses, wastes, and, ahem, snafus.
* That sound resource stewardship, based on sound science, guides NPS decisions, not politics. In other words, let the scientists do their jobs and respect their findings and suggestions.
* That the Congress, if it deems new units of the National Park System appropriate, provide a reliable funding mechanism for those units when it passes enacting legislation.
* That more parks turn to mass transit in an effort to not just cut greenhouse gas emissions, but make it easier and more enjoyable to navigate parks.
* That the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial in Concord, California, receive the full stewardship of the National Park Service and that Congress pass legislation that would convert the memorial to a fully administered park unit. Currently, no resource exists to staff maintenance or educational programs, and because the site is on an active military base with security concerns, people who want to visit the site have to apply two weeks in advance.
* That the federal Office of Personnel Management drop its concerns about the Alaska Local Hire Program and recognizes that local hire is an outstanding way for Alaskans to share their local knowledge and skills and begin a life-long career with the National Park Service.
* That the National Park Service adopt a definition of "traditional activities," for which some motorized access is permitted, that disallows recreational snow-machine riding in the 1980 additions to Denali National Park & Preserve.
* That the state of Alaska acknowledge that liberalizing the hunting rules for wolves and bears in Alaska's national preserves to enhance hunter success for moose and caribou is contrary to National Park Management Policies and as a result will roll-back bag limits and season length to pre-1994 levels (1994 being the year the state adopted its policy of increasing hunter success for some wildlife by manipulating the populations of others - i.e., predator control).
* That the National Park Service make a binding commitment to phaseout recreational snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park.
* That there is increased tolerance for Yellowstone bison attempting to access winter habitat and a corresponding end to the bison slaughter.
* That no more cell towers are erected in national parks.
* That the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power drop its proposal to build a 500-kilovolt transmission line along a 10-mile-long swath of desert floor, destroying habitat and bisecting the wildlife corridor that leads from Joshua Tree National Park’s rugged wilderness to life-sustaining water.
* That the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve be added to Joshua Tree National Park, as well as the land between what is now the park and Big Morongo’s spring—the same land that bighorn sheep and other wildlife travel to find water.
* That somehow, some way, an amicable solution is reached over the issue of off-road vehicle access at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
* That the National Park Service receives adequate funding so individual parks can afford to hire interpreters and scientists and not have to outsource those positions to volunteers or other institutions.
* That we see a fully implemented settlement for the North Shore Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our wish is to see a new agreement between the four parties (Swain County, North Carolina, Interior Department, and the Tennessee Valley Authority) that provides Swain County an appropriate monetary settlement with a significant down payment, and eliminates the possibility of any road construction along the north shore of Fontana Lake.
* That the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan gain some traction.
Thanks to Greg Kidd, Jim Stratton, Ron Sundergill, and Timothy Stevens of the National Parks Conservation Association for their assistance in compiling this list.