The campaigns are over, the results are in, and it’s time to consider what the 2008 elections portend for the National Park System. Traveler highlights several foregone conclusions, makes a couple of fearless forecasts, and invites you, the readers, to share your prognostications.
With Barack Obama as President-elect, the Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, and the Republican Party in disarray, the safest of all the foregone conclusions is that federal government policies and practices will drift (perhaps veer?) to the left of the path they've followed in recent years. Since strong support of environmental protection laws is a hallmark trait of the left, we can reasonably expect renewed federal zeal for curbing pollution, preserving wildlife habitat, and developing sustainable alternative energy sources. All of this bodes well for the national parks, which have suffered grievously from outside threats and are overdue for a break.
Another foregone conclusion is that the Bush administration will redouble its efforts to weaken environmental protection laws and regulations before the window of opportunity closes. Count on it; the next six weeks will see a veritable torrent of rulings, decrees, and pronouncements whose net effect will be to reduce constraints on resource extraction and wealth generation. This does not bode well for the environmental qualities that the national parks exist to protect.
Now, a couple of fearless forecasts. While these don’t approach the nearly 100 percent certainty of the above-cited foregone conclusions, they do have a comfortable feel about them.
* Nancy Pelosi, now perhaps the most powerful Speaker of the House in modern times, is a San Francisco-based politician. She has dearly wanted to see Golden Gate National Recreation Area “upgraded” to Golden Gate National Parks. (Yes, that's right, plural parks). You can now consider that a done deal. It is a major understatement to say that I don’t trust Ms. Pelosi, who is a whole hell of a lot further to the left of center than the American public, but I do understand the power that her position commands. She will get what she wants in “small” matters like this GGNRA redesignation thing. Go ahead and bet the farm on it. And if you are a Presidio booster, you should be wreathed in smiles. Good things are headed your way.
* Here’s another fearless forecast. Although Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania, never should have been made a national park, and deserves to be abolished at the first available opportunity, this will not happen for at least another four years. In fact, we should not be surprised to see Steamtown re-invigorated with increased funding and other goodies. Vice President-elect Joe Biden is from Scranton, the city that has become a symbol for the Rustbelt America that the federal government is supposed to rescue. Enough said.
* How will the Centennial Initiative fare? That's a very good question. While this bus has left the station, there haven't been many riders on it. Congress failed to fully fund the program -- President Bush wanted Congress to toss in $100 million a year for the next decade, but it only came up with $50 million -- and with the country's current economic malaise, how likely is President-elect Obama to toss the National Park Service an additional $100 million in its budgets? The feeling here is that this initiative will fade ... but hopefully be replaced by the centennial legislation a bipartisan group of senators offered back in April or a similar proposal introduced to the House back in July of 07.
OK; it’s your turn. Tell us what you think the election results mean for the national parks