On the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration, NPCA is looking ahead at key fights to protect America’s national parks in 2018.
National parks were under attack in 2017. The Trump administration took more than 30 dangerous and destructive actions that chip away at longstanding protections for public lands. Officials at the highest levels of government have weakened, overturned and disregarded laws and regulations that have safeguarded our parks for years, making it easier for industries that log, mine and drill to exploit America’s natural resources.
What are some of the biggest threats for the year ahead? Here are five major issues NPCA is especially concerned about.
Illegal attacks on our national monuments. Last year, the Department of the Interior illegally slashed protections on two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Secretary Zinke’s official recommendations from 2017 included plans to change eight additional national monuments, including Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, a national park site in Maine. The administration could attempt to change more monument borders and management policies at these public lands at any time.
Oil and gas drilling at park borders and shorelines. Earlier this month, the Department of Interior released its draft plan to open nearly all federal waters to oil and gas leasing, including areas that have never been leased or drilled. At the same time, the Department of the Interior is weakening environmental safeguards that help prevent and mitigate the damage from disastrous oil spills. We must be vigilant in speaking out against irresponsible development that could threaten parks’ air, water, views and character.
Bears and wolves. The Trump administration has removed federal protections on wildlife such as grizzly bears in Yellowstone and wolves in Denali, and the Department of the Interior is revisiting regulations that helped curb egregious sport hunting methods on park lands in Alaska that were at odds with Park Service rules. NPCA will continue to say no to aggressive hunting methods within preserve boundaries — such as using flashlights to wake and kill hibernating bears, killing mother bears with cubs, and baiting bears with grease-soaked donuts — which present a clear conflict with the mission of the Park Service to protect natural diversity.
Adequate funding. Last year, President Donald Trump proposed the biggest cut to the National Park Service budget since World War II. Fortunately, Congress did not enact these severe cuts — but we expect the administration will continue to propose similar cuts in 2018. If Congress were to pass such a budget, it would mean cutting rangers, programs and services at a time when our parks face record visitation and have a $11.3 billion repair backlog of repair needs.
Keeping parks affordable and accessible. Last year, the Department of the Interior announced that it would increase fees at 17 of the most visited national park sites during peak seasons, a move that risks pricing some families out of their parks. Entrance fees could go from $25 to $70 at some of these sites, making it difficult for many families to enjoy our national parks. Although NPCA supports increasing fees responsibly to supplement park funding for maintenance and programs, the proposed fee increases — estimated to gross $70 million per year — would not come close to addressing the $11 billion backlog. Congress must make the investment.
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NPCA will continue to fight damaging development, defend clean air and water, challenge the president from illegally rescinding public lands protections, and address other critical issues that arise in 2018.
Our parks and public lands belong to all of us, and we must continue to preserve these magnificent places for generations to come. Please consider joining our email list to stay on top of these and other important battles. And thank you for defending these irreplaceable sites alongside us.
About the author
Theresa Pierno President and CEO
Theresa Pierno is President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. She joined NPCA in 2004 after a distinguished career in public service and natural resource protection, and has helped to solidify the organization's role as the voice of America's national parks.