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Reader Participation Day: Why Are National Parks So Controversial?


When I first started the Traveler back in '05, I never expected some stories about the National Park System to be so controversial.

Who thought the snowmobile issue in Yellowstone National Park would still be slogging on, a decade and more than $10 million since it first arose back in 2000? And would anyone think that some birds and turtles would be such a hot-button topic at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

There are other examples -- whether to drain Hetch Hetchy at Yosemite National Park, mule rides at Grand Canyon National Park, hunting/culling issues in any number of parks, and even oysters at Point Reyes National Seashore.

No, I figured writing about national parks would be relatively safe, a continuing series of feel-good stories about some of the most gorgeous and interesting (culturally and historically) places in America. After all, units of the National Park System are set aside for the preservation of their resources for today's and tomorrow's generations, and for the public's enjoyment.

But instead it seems there is controversy (not to mention firebrand politics!) lurking in every nook and cranny of the park system. Why do you think that is?


Kurt, if you're wondering from whence the grave robbers (digging up dead threads) came, see:
As far as suing the government being a lucrative business; SELC had two attorneys, plus support staff on the case and were reimbursed about $100,000 for what's going on now as 6 years of work. That's less than minimum wage. Neither Audubon, DOW nor any other environmental group recieved any payment for time invested.
While there  are a plethora of environmental suits against corporations, municipalities and states (even states vs other states), only the Feds, as far as I can tell, have standing to "sue" private property owners.
The solution is of course for those entities being sued to comply with laws passed by the people - Congress, and they won't get sued.
Perhaps if  the "locals" didn't subcribe to a plethora of conspiracy theories and accuse local staff of lying about the data and species info (making up nests, ignoring one area just to focau on closing another) they wouldn't be looked upon as inbred ignorant folk (if that's even true).
Bottom line: The only "promise" that was made, is that the people would have regulated access to the beach. They do.
The NPS never promised to maintain the dunes for a highway they opposed.

Follow the Money???   Almost all the money involved here is going to Huge Law Firms and (alleged) Enviornmental Groups.   The US Gov't reviews law suits, decides that they appear to be too costly to defend and thought in the towel.  Problem?  The winner, in this case the law firms and enviornmental groups are the winner and the winner gets there expenses paid by the US Treasury.   Then they submit for reimbursment of their costs.  The government doesn't even dispute the overcharge, hourly rates way higher than what the law allows and more.  Then the lawyer find another small issue in same or another park and institue another suit.... THATS WHERE THE MONEY IS !!!
It about time that the Government stands up to a few of these suits no matter what the final cost is, and they may very well win. and then start requesting from these enviornmental money machines the governments cost for reimbursment... soon maybe they'll realize that the lawyer aren't in this to lose money...
You'll notice that there are very few if any enviornmental suits at the state level or on private property.... there's no money to be made... see? Follow the money and the reasoning.

The reason our National Parks have become so controversal in the last few years is due to the change in the type of people that are in charge of them.  As a resident of Buxton, NC my primary contact with the NPS has been on Cape Hatteras Island.  Over the years I have sensed a change in the attitude of the NPS Personnel.  When the park first started the locals and the park service were firends.  Each side respected each other and assisted each other.  As the years went by this began to change and the attitude on the part of the NPS personnel was that the locals were a bunch of in-bred uneducated people who did not know what was best for them or the Island.  This attitude combined with the fact that the promises made by the National Park at the inception of the Cape Hatteras National Recreational Park to maintain the sand dunes and free and open beaches were broken has led to a complete distrust of the NPS.  My Island grandmothe said that if the NPS was standing on a stack of Bibles a mile high and made you a promise you could guarante it would be a lie.  I feel it is a shame the NPS doesn't take the time to try to correct this feeling others have about them but year after year just keep on giving the people more and more reasons to distrust them.  What has really complicated our realationships with the NPS on Hatteras Island is their recent actions are not just a matter of disagreeing with their ideas but the fact they are now destroying
 livehoods by their insistence of closing down our beaches.

Cape Hatteras park, much of that land was "given" to the NPS ... with an agreement signed by the head of the NPS. They have violated that written agreement totally! While protecting the piping plover they activly shoot, trap and poison other animals in the park, yes some of it is on youtube!  Everyone here is sick and damn tired of thier crap! The put people on trial for trumped up charges that have been thrown out of Federal Court in Elizabeth City NC. They do that to intimidate people here. We need a govenor in NC ... will fight the Federal Govt, like the Gov of AZ!

This comment was edited to remove gratuitous language. Ed.

Kurt Repanshek:
And I'm told the motorcycle noise is pretty bad in Yellowstone around the end of July, when bikers are heading to Sturgis and make a pass through the park, or head through the park on their way home from Sturgis.

  I thought Badlands NP was where they really go through in numbers. The NPS supposedly brings in extra LE rangers that time of year just in case it gets out of hand.

Personally I don't like the noise either. I remember going to Point Reyes for a wildflower walk at Chimney Rock. That was during the whale watching season, and the only way in was via the shuttle from the Patrick Visitor Center. There was a whole group of almost 20 Harley riders going into the parking lot. They weren't really an outlaw group, with most of them seeming like average middle-class folks who were just weekend riders. But the noise those hogs were making pretty much carried for miles. It wasn't the faint whine of a crotch rocket, but a rumble of a Harley with modifications to make it even louder. You can argue about the boat or hikers making noise, but even from a mile away, I doubt there's anything that affects harbor seals more than the rumble of a Harley engine.

Anon.  Your compromise is no compromise (if I were an offroad motorcyclist) at all.  On the other hand, allowing them on say even day only would be a real compromise.  They still get to enjoy themselves, and you get peace and quiet half of the time.  That's compromise.  Kicking them off to the paved road where they would probably be bored to death would completely ruin their experience just to enhance yours: not a compromise. :)

And I'm told the motorcycle noise is pretty bad in Yellowstone around the end of July, when bikers are heading to Sturgis and make a pass through the park, or head through the park on their way home from Sturgis.

I also said that it was likely the motorcyclists were having a fine time with their National Park experience.  I suppose if an environmental impact statement said that the noise was bothering the bighorn sheep or the ground squirrels, then something would be done.  People who like quiet well.... 
Couldn't a compromise be motorized vehicles on the paved roads only and then no 'packs' of motorcyclists.   The noise gets bad on the Tioga Road in Yosemite also. 

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