The Obama administration has promised change, and has been soliciting ideas from around the country on how best to provide that change. When it comes to the National Park System, does the new administration have an agenda?
Indeed, little has been said by the new administration about the national parks -- other than that Senator Ken Salazar, the nominee for Interior secretary, acknowledges the National Park Service could use billions in additional funds to tackle backlogged projects.
And at change.gov, the web site the Obama team erected to garner public thoughts on needed change in the United States, few thoughts have been voiced about the national parks. A search this morning turned up just 25 submitted ideas on how the administration should approach the national parks.
Some are obvious -- create more national parks, "take your vacations in national parks," better fund the parks -- but there also are some that are not so obvious and which might even be inappropriate for the park system. For instance, a suggestion (attached below) from the Marin (California) Agricultural Land Trust calls for the national parks to be a showcase for "sustainable agriculture."
In 2016 the National Park Service will celebrate its one hundredth anniversary, a century of public homage to its designated National Parks, places of outstanding beauty and natural phenomenon. Many of our parks are in a unique position to demonstrate a better way to grow food; to serve as model farms and gardens for millions of visitors; and to lead the nation toward growing safe and healthy food with fewer negative impacts on our global environment. Our national parks can preserve significant cultural landscapes and further our national interest in educating the public to appreciate locally-grown, healthier foods.
Model farms and gardens within our parks are in a unique position to offer a better way to demonstrate best management practices to both visiting growers and the general public. Ranches can demonstrate innovative grazing practices, pasture improvement techniques, invasive weed management, even improved animal husbandry practices. They can work effectively with University Extension Services, and provide practical demonstration projects as well as certification programs. Having a close relationship between parks and surrounding communities provides opportunities for cooperative programs to flourish between local land trusts, and other non-profit organizations and the Parks. In Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, preservation of the park’s rural landscape and farming traditions has recently been recognized as a priority. It is energizing the whole area including the opening of seasonal markets for high-quality food and crafts.
Park farms and gardens can be an inspiration to the visitors and the millions of children that visit each year. Parents can learn to make more informed purchasing choices. Children can see where their food comes from. They can see it grow and be harvested. They can learn to care about healthy food. They can learn the good values that working on the land can provide. Gardens within the park can participate in local farmers markets or even create their own farmer’s market. They provide a wonderful tie between the community and the Park.
Now, perhaps this idea might be better applied to the Agriculture Department, but it's an idea just the same about the role the national parks could or should serve in the country.
You can comment on the ideas already posted on this site, or submit your own from this page.