|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||September 12, 2003|
|Contact:||Jill Stephens, National Parks Conservation Association, 865-329-2424
Kate Himot, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-454-3311
Groups Call on Congress to Clean Air in National Parks
"Air pollution is one of the most immediate and widespread threats to our national parks," said Jill Stephens, spokesperson for NPCA's Clean Air for Parks and People campaign. "Our parks provide not just places for enjoyment, learning, and inspiration, but essential touchstones for our country's heritage. And pollution from power plants and other sources damages our parks every day. It's reached a critical point so that even groups that have never spoken out about the issue are taking a stand."
National parks across the country suffer the effects of air pollution, including visibility loss, acid rain that pollutes park waters, mercury contamination in several park species, and potential threats to the health of park visitors, staff, and wildlife. Rain as acidic as lemon juice acidifies streams in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, making them less capable of supporting even the acid-tolerant brook trout. Already scarce native plants are crowded out in Joshua Tree National Park in California because high levels of nitrogen from acid deposition acts as a fertilizer for invasive species. Human-generated haze from power plants and other sources frequently blocks scenic views at every national park that monitors visibility. And America's most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains, is also the most polluted. During the summer of 2002 the park recorded 42 unhealthy air days-- surpassing eastern cities including Atlanta. In fact, air pollution has landed the park on NPCA's list of America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks for five consecutive years.
"Some of our nation's crown jewels are also its most polluted," Stephens said. "Last year, NPCA helped identify the nation's five most polluted national parks using National Park Service data. Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee, Acadia in Maine, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon in California are all in that group. Congress has the opportunity to protect and restore clean air for our national parks and communities."
The letters sent to Congress today outline criteria air pollution proposals must meet to be considered park protective.
"It is essential that America clean up its oldest and dirtiest power plants, and enforce and strengthen existing clean air programs designed to safeguard national parks," said Stephens. "Without strong leadership in Congress, air pollution in our national parks will not improve. That's a poor legacy for America's priceless treasures."