New List of America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks Highlights Widespread Problems

Date:   January 14, 2003
Contact:   Ronald J. Tipton, NPCA, 202-454-3915
Kate Himot, NPCA, 202-454-3311
Roger DiSilvestro, NPCA, 202-454-3335

New List of America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks Highlights Widespread Problems

Washington, D.C. - Air pollution, abusive use of motorized vehicles, years of inadequate funding, damaging development on lands adjacent to parks, and harmful Bush Administration policies are among the troubles besetting national parks named to the fifth annual National Parks Conservation Association's (NPCA) America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks list. Released today, the list includes five new parks and five former listees still plagued by persistent problems. "Designation as a national park alone doesn't protect our parks," said NPCA senior vice president Ronald J. Tipton. "Parks also need strong support from the president and Congress. The Bush Administration needs to halt its attacks on national parks and provide the protections our nation's treasures need."

Administration actions that damage parks include changes to the Clean Air Act that will allow outdated smokestack industries to continue operating without modern pollution controls, regulations that could lead to new road-building in national parks, and failure to follow up adequately on campaign promises for better park funding.

"An increasing number of the Administration's actions are directly harming our national parks," Tipton said. "For an Administration that pledged to 'restore and renew' the parks, this is particularly distressing. The American people need actions that demonstrate the pledge was more than just campaign spin."

Parks on this year's list, in alphabetical order with their biggest threats, are:

  • Big Thicket National Preserve (Texas): Sale of private lands could fragment and destroy wildlife habitat by promoting haphazard development along park borders; dam proposals could alter much of the preserve's unique wildlife habitat;

  • Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska): Proposals to open pristine wilderness to motorized access such as snowmobiles will harm the park; a new governor and a pro-development congressional delegation may approve a damaging and unnecessary new route into the park;

  • Everglades National Park (Florida): Lack of Park Service input into management plans, inadequate restoration plans, and ensuring sufficient funding for restoration stand out among significant concerns;

  • Glacier National Park (Montana): Insufficient funding cripples park protection; development jeopardizes park resources; global warming threatens park glaciers;
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina/Tennessee): Pollution from coal-fired power plants threatens the health of park visitors, plants, and wildlife and diminishes scenic views; Administration rollback of clean-air protections compounds threats;

  • Joshua Tree National Park (California): A new city may sprout on a strip of private land between the park and a nearby nature preserve, fracturing critical wildlife corridors, degrading already poor air quality, and straining dwindling aquifers;

  • Ocmulgee National Monument (Georgia): One of the largest archeological collections in the National Park System is decaying as a result of insufficient funding; a proposed highway could cut off park lands and destroy biological and cultural resources;

  • Shenandoah National Park (Virginia): Pollution endangers plants, animals, and scenic vistas; non-native invasive plants and insects damage native vegetation;
  • Virgin Islands National Park (U.S. Virgin Islands): Insufficient funding jeopardizes fragile coral reefs and declining fish populations; a proposed luxury resort could destroy critical wildlife habitat and cause pollution; and

  • Yellowstone National Park (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming): Snowmobile use threatens the health and experience of visitors and staff, diminishes air quality, and jeopardizes wildlife; inadequate funding impairs resource-management and visitor services; park bison are harassed by snowmobiles and killed by Montana officials when wandering off park lands in search of food.

Chronic air pollution continues to envelop Great Smoky Mountains National Park, returning the park to the list for the fifth consecutive year. Pollution also threatens Shenandoah and Joshua Tree national parks, both new to this year's list. Pollution from aging smokestacks and from motor vehicles plagues parks across the country, creating ozone that threatens humans and plants, acid rain that sours streams and soils, and soot that triggers 30,000 premature human deaths yearly and diminishes scenic views.

Development and urban encroachment also plague many national parks, as illustrated by two parks new to the list: Big Thicket and Virgin Islands. In Texas, private forest lands that surround the preserve are for sale. If sold for non-preservation uses, resulting habitat fragmentation and degradation from possible clear-cutting and sprawling development along widened U.S. 69 could irrevocably damage one of the country's first national preserves. In the Virgin Islands, private lands on St. John could be clear-cut and graded for a luxury resort, destroying not just views the park was created to protect but also forests critical to native and migratory birds. Displaced soils can pollute park waters, smothering fragile coral reefs.

Parks delisted this year, and the reasons for their removal, are:

  • Big Bend National Park (Texas): A conservation trust plans to purchase water rights from willing irrigators to maintain instream flows, and a U.S./Mexico work group plans to restore native vegetation within and upstream of the park;

  • Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida): Big Cypress, listed last year with Everglades National Park, was removed because the Bush Administration has promised to buy mineral rights there from a company that planned to build exploratory wells and use dynamite to find oil deposits;

  • Federal Hall National Memorial (New York): the House of Representatives and the Senate Appropriations Committee in December approved the largest increase ever for the operating needs of parks such as Federal Hall;

  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska): the park is conducting an environmental impact study for vessel quotas and operating requirements in the park;

  • Mojave National Preserve (California): a proposed private groundwater storage and delivery system was rejected by Southern California's Metropolitan Water District;

  • and Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania): the Park Service is negotiating to buy private lands set aside for development and, with the state transportation department, is deploying traffic to improve park protection.
    • "The only way to preserve national parks is to address park threats," said NPCA president Thomas C. Kiernan. "By worsening air quality in the parks, minimal follow-through on park funding, and overall weakening of many environmental laws, the Bush Administration has shown that it is not yet a friend of the national parks. The American people must pressure the Administration and its allies in Congress to protect and restore America's precious national parks."


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