Legislation Introduced To Let States Manage National Parks, Other Public Lands

In a move not entirely surprising, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska has proposed legislation to create a mechanism for states to take over management of national parks and other federal lands.

It's not surprising in that a number of states -- Utah, Colorado, Arizona, South Dakota, New York, and Tennessee -- stepped up last week to underwrite the costs of reopening parks in their states during the government shutdown.

As written, the legislation would require a state to put up at least 50 percent of the costs of running the national park in question to have its petition considered by the Interior secretary. If a state provided 55 percent of the costs of operation, it would receive 55 percent of the revenues that park generated. States would not be given title to the land.

States that gain such authority could relinquish it by writing the Interior secretary and asking to be relieved of its authority. The secretary also could void the agreement if the state defaults on payments or is found to have breached its agreement.

Introduced this past Tuesday, the bill has no cosponsors.

Comments

Kurt,

No doubt there are events that cause the need for repair of certain parts of the park. As your handfull of anecdotal citations notes, most of these events are fixed relatively quickly, often with substantial contributions from non-NPS sources. To translate that into a systemic poor and seriously deficient rating for 1/3 of the park trails is a major stretch, and not consistent with my experience.

Some are not so quick to fix, EC. I suggest you read some of the Great Smoky stories. Some trails were closed for weeks, if not months, I believe.

And I would think the onus would be on you to demonstrate that one-third of the trail system throughout the entire 18,600 miles of trails in the park system are not deficient, when that's how the Park Service categorized the situation. Are you calling them liars?

It would be nice if they described what constitutes "deficient." I know during my backpack into the Bechler region of Yellowstone a couple of years ago I was deep into horse manure in trails that were 6-8 inches below grade due in part to horse traffic. And there were stream crossings where log bridges had been washed out, as well as stream banks heavily damaged, again by horses.

I must agree traveler. Most parks do have trail standards, they are pretty minimal and deal with trail and brush clearing, rock slides, drainage (the most important of all), etc. I do think trail maintenance is a yearly function, trails can deteriorate quickly into erosion gullies, be washed out, subject to snow avalanche, rock slides, etc. No, I think the parks and their highly experienced wilderness personnel who compiled these backlog maintenance figures have it right.


Are you calling them liars?


No - And I think you nailed it in your next sentence. I suspect what they would call "seriously deficient" I would consider challanging and/or fun. But then, maybe we should just pave those trails.

Any attempt to classify the condition of trails into some broad categories will be somewhat subjective, but it's clear from earlier comments that there's plenty of work needed. No, we shouldn't "just pave those trails," but it's not too much to expect popular trails for day hikers to be relatively free of deep ruts and frequent tripping hazards such as large protruding tree roots and rocks. Sadly, I've found plenty of places like that on park trails in recent years.

Getting people out of their cars - and out of sight of the parking lot - is a positive goal for any park, but that's harder to do if the visitor's last experience on a trail meant they had to keep their eyes constantly on the ground ahead of them - instead of enjoying their surroundings - because of unsafe trail conditions.

Trail maintenance is a lot like that old car maintenance commercial - "you can pay me now, or pay me later," but when you put it off, it ends up costing more in the end.

Good comment Jim. Having been invovled in the issue of maintaining trails in one capacity or another for many years, it can be somewhat subjective. We do have paved trails, we also do much more in the way of maintenance on those trails that get used heavily, etc. We also, in those areas where use is light or are in remote locations little visited, try to conduct maintenance activities at a minimal standard. Very interesting discussion for me personally.

Horse damage on trails is a very sensitive subject here in the Smokies. Park leadership coddles the horse lobby at every turn and refuses to acknowledge a problem with them but hike any horse trail or speak with any non equestrian and you will incite a furor. Very fragile trails are wide open to horses and ruts, flies, manure and dangerous footing are the result. At one shelter, Laurel Gap, irresponsible equestrians tied their animals to the newly renovated shelter (renovated by volunteers and volunteer money, I should add) and allowed the shelter to be used as a barn during rain and the result was urine and feces that made the place uninhabitable for months, not to mention the physical damage to the structure as a result of these morons tying their stock to the building. This is but a slice of the thousands of similar stories any hiker can tell. Of all the stimulus funds conferred to the Smokies by Obama (4 times their annual budget, almost 80 million dollars) only half a million went to trails and guess what percentage of that was to fix horse damaged trails? Yep, you got it, all of it.

But backpackers are the ones who get to pay fees in the Smokies and horses pay nothing unless they overnight, which most don't. Does that seem fair? Of course it isn't. But "fair" isn't part of the NPS playbook.

Here's a link to an article in today's Salt Lake Tribune regarding ATV use in southern Utah. Another solid argument for allowing states to control public lands?

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57827295-78/blm-canyon-lyman-motorized.html.csp

"Lyman claims the damage [to artifacts] is not even visible." Oh, man.