Jim Hightower Says Parks are Being Trashed

Jim HightowerWhen you've finished reading your October issue of National Geographic, I've got another article for you to check out that covers some of the same ground. It is another piece highlighting specific current threats to our institution of national parks. This one is written by a fellow named Jim Hightower. Apparently this guy is a radio talk-show host. And while I am not familiar with his on-air work, I was impressed with the piece he's written for his website this month called "Our national parks are being trashed and taken over". Now, unfortunately, you've got to subscribe to his website to read the full piece, but if the management of the parks is an issue you care about, it may be worth the price (ask around, maybe someone you know is already a subscriber). By my count, the length of the piece is 7 pages or 2,750 words long. I wouldn't feel right about copying and pasting his whole article here, but I think I can give you a flavor for the piece with a few select paragraphs.

Park Overcrowding:
I find this statement particularly interesting in light of a recent Park Subcommittee hearing wondering why visitation to parks is flat over the last few years. : "Traffic jams are notorious in many parks because there has been inadequate expansion of roads and parking lots to keep up with the increase in visitors. For example, an 11 mile ride on the single-lane road to the peaks of Great Smoky Mountains National Park takes up to four hours in the summer and fall leaf season, and an average of 6,000 cars a day try to enter the main visitors' area of the Grand Canyon, which has only 2,400 parking spaces. "

Commercialization:
"One backward step has been the acceptance of corporate advertising in these public areas. This is being rationalized as a necessary step to 'help' the parks by getting corporate ad money to cover some of their budget shortfalls. You can see the cynical game they're playing--intentionally slash public funding (Bush proposes a cut of $100 million from the NPS's 2007 annual budget), then call in corporations to be white-hat rescuers."

Privatization:
"A White House privatization plan in 2003 called for transferring more than half of NPS's jobs (rangers, firefighters, archeologists, curators, biologists, and others) to low-bid contractors (I think I smell Halliburton here!). Congress temporarily stalled this, but Bush continues to push, requiring the parks to study and test his privatization scheme. "

Christianization:
"An eight minute video shown [at the Lincoln Memorial] portrays many of the historic marches and events that have taken place [there]. Christian 'purists,' however, screeched that the video's showing of antiwar, pro-choice, and gay-rights demonstrations must be excised, claiming that the inclusion of such footage implied that Lincoln himself embraced these causes. Bush appointees promptly spent more than $200,000 to edit the video so it includes footage of such other events as pro-Gulf War demonstrations and the Christian 'Promise Keepers' rally'even though these did not take place at the Lincoln Memorial."

Hightower concludes his piece by saying:
"These gems of shared ground link us spiritually and physically with each other, with our past and future, and with our natural world. By letting them be tarnished, our leaders have tarnished America itself. It's up to us, using our grassroots strength, to make these gems gleam again."

As of today, there are a couple of nice comments on the article that can be found on the website, including one from a former NPS park ranger. If these paragraphs catch your interest, the subscription price to read the whole thing may be worth it for you. As you could probably guess, I enjoyed the piece. I may try to find this guy on my local radio station. I wonder what else he's got to say.
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