“When I first started the Traveler back in '05,” he wrote, “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.”
Repanshek went on to write that he 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.”
“But instead it seems there is controversy (not to mention firebrand politics!) lurking in every nook and cranny of the park system,” he says and asks readers why they think that is the case.
Controversy and politics are issues we’ve become increasingly familiar with here at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore as the effort to formulate an off-road vehicle management plan has dragged on and on for decades.
And the longer it continues, the more contentious the relationship between the Park Service and the people who live here or visit the seashore gets.
The animosity extends to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on northern Hatteras Island.
Case in point is The Island Free Press survey on Hurricane Irene response. The National Park Service was one of the agencies readers were asked to evaluate on the preparation for the storm and the response to its aftermath.
The National Park Service response was rated as poor or unacceptable by the majority of residents, non-resident property owners, and visitors.
In their comments on the Park Service, most of the respondents admitted that they didn’t know that much about what park officials did after the storm so they didn’t have a specific criticism of their performance.
They just said they plain don’t like the Park Service – having nothing to do with the hurricane.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got even worse rankings.
However, as Repanshek wrote, there is controversy lurking in every nook and cranny of the Park Service.
We are not the only community that is increasingly taking issue with the Park Service’s sometimes heavy-handed tactics, seemingly uncaring attitude about the people, reliance on pseudo-science, and the perceived inclination to cave to the demands of the very litigious and well-funded environmental lobby.
It’s happening at parks across the country.
Mike Metzgar, a member of the board of directors of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, spends a good deal of time keeping us informed of Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service controversies elsewhere.
During November and December, especially, we got link after link to stories in other publications.
I think it’s worth sharing them with you, so I’m providing links to a good sampling of controversies that say something about our struggle for more reasonable access to the seashore beaches.
There are links at the end of this blog, if you want to read some of these articles, but here’s a brief summary.
- Of special interest is the situation at Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California. An oyster farm that has leased Park Service land in an estuary for more than 70 years is in danger of not having its lease renewed because of the possible disturbance to seals in the area. A Park Service Draft Environmental Statement released last year favored closure of the oyster farm and several environmental groups also oppose renewing the lease. Residents near the seashore support renewing the lease.
This situation is interesting because front and center in the controversy is a fierce argument over the science that the Park Service used to justify not renewing the lease and whether it was tweaked to make the owners of the farms appear less than environmentally friendly.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because there are questions about the science that the Park Service is using at Cape Hatteras to justify huge beach closures, especially for piping plover chicks.
- Folks at Chincoteague in Virginia are fearful of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to move a parking area and beach access near the town and shuttle beachgoers and all of their belongs to another beach. The service cites erosion and sea-level rise as the reason. The residents see this as a measure that will kill their economy.
- The Park Service is trying to block a power line project that would go through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Park Service has the backing of environmental groups, and its preferred alternative is not to build the line at all.
- The Park Service has released a General Management Plan that would close a good deal of the Biscayne National Park near Miami to fishing. The plan is opposed by some stakeholder groups and The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
- In Alaska, members of the Congressional delegation inserted language in an appropriations bill that would block the Park Service from conducting boat checks in the Yukon Charley National Preserve. The lawmakers and some others believe that the NPS went too far in trying to control Alaska waters.
- Bicycling enthusiasts are alarmed that the National Park Service is about to ban bicycles on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Hikers and campers have rallied to oppose new fees the Park Service wants to impose on backcountry camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- A columnist for The Examiner in Washington writes that the Park Service could expand its “ever expanding land-grabs” with a report from the Wildlife Conservation Society that promotes wildlife migration corridors. The group conducted a workshop for the Park Service recently on “conserving migrations” in or near national parks.
- Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., held a meeting to oppose a proposal by the National Park Service to double most of the parking fees at the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreational Area.
One of the controversies that the Park Service was involved in last year actually went against the wishes of environmental groups – and the public, for that matter. That was a proposal to ban plastic, disposable water bottles in Grand Canyon National Park.
Just two weeks before the ban was to go into effect, Jonathan Jarvis, director of the NPS, put it on hold. Some charged that Jarvis did so to appease the Coca-Cola Co., which makes large donations to benefit the parks.
Jarvis eventually allowed park superintendents to ban the bottles, but only after extensive studies.
However, some still charge that Jarvis tried to cave to Coca-Cola, which I guess means the company has more money than environmental groups.
Thanks to Mike Metzgar for reminding us that we are not alone.
Enjoy the articles. Peruse them as you have time.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Links to various articles on the Internet about the National Park Service and its conflicts with stakeholders and communities.