Would President Trump do more to protect national parks if he took time to visit them? Here are 10 inspirational places I’d put at the top of his bucket list.
The Trump administration had a terrible track record of undoing protections for public lands in 2017. But if he took some time to experience these magnificent places, he might begin to appreciate the disastrous effects his administration’s policies will have on our public lands.
Where would you send President Donald Trump? Here are my top picks.
1. Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida
The country’s first national preserve protects tropical and temperate forests, prairies, and marine estuaries that are home to diverse wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther. But earlier this year, the Texas-based Burnett Oil Company began driving 30-ton trucks through these sensitive wetlands to test for the presence of oil and gas — a move that could lead to extensive drilling within the preserve. The battle to protect Big Cypress predates Trump’s administration, but he signed executive orders last year that prioritize oil and gas development on public lands and roll back common-sense environmental safeguards. I think anyone who actually sees these cypress forests would not allow such a thing.
2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Everyone should see the Grand Canyon — it is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World for good reason. But the timing of your visit can have an enormous effect on your trip. That is why I’d send President Trump there twice. First, on a good air quality day, to see this multicolored, mile-deep, intricately carved canyon as everyone should see it. Then, I’d send him on a day when nitrogen, ozone and other pollutants from nearby coal-fired power plants become trapped in the canyon, ruining the views and harming the plants and animals that live in the park. If the Environmental Protection Agency continues to undermine rules that keep coal-fired pollution under control, this situation will only worsen at what should be one of America’s proudest places.
3. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana
Ever since this beloved Great Lakes park was created in the 1960s, industrial development at the adjacent Port of Indiana has caused serious threats to the waters and beaches that draw so many of the lakeshore’s visitors. Last April, a carcinogenic chemical spill at a nearby steel plant forced the National Park Service to close three of Indiana Dunes’ beaches, yet the Environmental Protection Agency has not enforced environmental regulations, imposed fines or otherwise compelled the polluter to clean up its act. President Trump could direct the EPA to do its job and keep Indiana Dunes — and other parks — safe from industrial pollution.
4. Arches National Park, Utah
This landmark park has the greatest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world, with spectacular views in every direction. President Trump should see these geologic wonders before his administration allows increased oil and gas drilling within sight of this popular tourist destination, a move that would industrialize its borders, draw down precious water reserves and jeopardize desert wildlife.
5. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Kentucky and Tennessee
This hidden gem of a park offers white-water rafting, world-class fishing, spectacular hiking, stargazing and horseback riding on the banks of one of our country’s clearest, cleanest, most beautiful rivers. President Trump should see these waters for himself before his administration officially overturns the Clean Water Rule, which would leave this river and its fish vulnerable to increased pollution from commercial and industrial activities in its headwaters.
6. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
In June and July, Brooks Falls is the place to be for anyone who wants to see brown bears. And our president should see these grizzlies up-close in one of the few places they still roam wild, because his administration could soon make egregious forms of hunting permissible within national preserves such as the one adjacent to Katmai National Park. These new rules, which the National Park Service has opposed, include waking bears from hibernation with artificial light to kill them, killing mother sows with cubs, and using snares and other objectionable practices.
7. Glacier National Park, Montana
This world-famous park is one of our nation’s most potent examples of the effects climate change is having on our country. In 1850, the land that later became Glacier National Park was home to 150 glaciers. Now, only 25 remain, and scientists estimate that all of them will be gone by 2030. Prioritizing fossil fuels over clean renewable energy, failing to enforce environmental regulations, and repealing programs aimed at reducing climate pollution will only make these glaciers disappear more quickly.
8. Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia
More than 400 years ago, Capt. John Smith founded the country’s first permanent English settlement at historic Jamestown, and today, visitors can still see views that are evocative of what those settlers saw. But last July, the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit for Dominion Virginia Power to build 17 giant transmission towers across the James River. The president should see the historic landscape we all stand to lose due to this decision, which he could still so easily reverse.
9. Mojave National Preserve, California
This preserve is one of the most diverse desert environments in the world and contains portions of three of the four major North American deserts and the largest Joshua tree woodland on Earth. In this perennially arid landscape, water is especially valuable. I would want President Trump to see Mojave before his administration furthers a highly destructive water-mining project proposed by Cadiz, Inc., that would pump 16 billion gallons of water per year from the region, threatening the delicate plants and wildlife that live here.
10. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine
NPCA worked for years to support the creation of this new national monument, which preserves more than 87,500 acres of land along the East Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine. Vast forests surround the river with a diverse mix of tree species, including maple, oak, ash, beech, birch, aspen, spruce, fir and hemlock. An Interior Department report suggests, however, that the administration could soon remove protections from this park to allow logging in this wild, rugged landscape. The president doesn’t need to be a tree-hugger to understand how important it is to protect these boreal forests that are generating new tourism benefits for the region.
Where do you think President Trump should visit?
NPCA took a poll, and here’s what readers said.
Of the 10 national park sites named in this story, 31% of readers who responded most want Trump to visit Glacier, 20% voted for Grand Canyon, 15% for Arches, 13% for Katmai and 5% for Big Cypress.
Of all the sites in the National Park System, the top five places readers picked were Yellowstone, Acadia, Yosemite, Death Valley and Grand Canyon.
Thanks to all who participated in our poll.
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About the author
Mark Wenzler Senior Vice President of Conservation Programs
Mark oversees NPCA’s programs focused on protecting and restoring the air, lands, water, and wildlife in our national parks. He is an avid outdoor recreationist who loves to ski, bike, backpack and paddle, especially in our national parks.
- Arches National Park
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area
- Colonial National Historical Park
- Glacier National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
- Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
- Katmai National Park & Preserve
- Mojave National Preserve