Reflections on Good News for Our National Parks

More often than not, the daily news brings us more bad news about threats to the environment and Congress’ continued threats to reduce National Parks funding even more than they have already. Next week, Congress will decide whether to vote for a “Dirty Water Bill” that would undo much of the rivers, lakes and watersheds progress implemented with the 1972 Clean Water Act.

I have been a member of the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) ever since the days when George Hartzog was the high-impact director of the National Park Service between 1964 and 1972. There’s an indepth feature about Hartzog in the current issue of National Parks.

The greatest threat to the environment, is much larger than the issue of a Dirty Water Bill or an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: it is, quite simply, the fact we have to keep fighting to save and protect something that ought to be a top priority for everyone.

While it’s almost criminal that we–as a society–should have to fight so long and at such great expense to create good news for our environment and our National Parks, such news brings hope and a chance to reflect upon what kind of world we would have if the good news occurred so often, it was no longer newsworthy.

Reading the first 14 pages of the Summer 2011 issue of National Parks was a true pleasure:

  • Once again, the Gettysburg National Military Park has been spared from the disruption and sprawl of a casino on its doorstep. According to the NPCA, opposition to the casino by prominent historians, NPCA members and supporters, and a 30,000-signature peition helped persuade the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to do the right thing.
  • Kaiser Ventures has been trying since 1988 to create the largest landfill in the United States on land adjactent to Joshua Tree National Park. Had the company been allowed to do so, 20,000 tons of trash per day would have been dumped next to a fragile ecosystem. In 2009, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said “no,” and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Kaiser. Until Kaiser finds a new way to build the dump, Joshua Tree has much to celebrate on its 75th anniversary.
  • It has taken eleven years for the NPCA, its allies and its lawyers to force the Tennesee Valley Authority to stop polluting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On days when the pollution is at its worst, vistors to the park can see only 17 miles. On a clear day, visitors can see 77 miles. With the settlemen agreement, there will be many more clear days. The TVA will  reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 69% and sulfur dioxide emissions by 67% by phasing out 18 coal-fired units and by installing modern pollution controls on 36 other units by 2018.

I look forward to the time when clear victories will bring us the kind of clear days that allow us to see forever-–insofar as clean air and clean water are concerned. Until then, every success brings infinite relfections on what is possible.

You May Also Like: Beauty and Heartbreak in Arroyo Pescadero – The Whittier, California city council wants to drill for oil in this environmentally sensitive arroyo east of Los Angeles.


99 cents

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the recently released Bears; Where they Fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley, a glimpse at the dramatic history of the most beautiful place on Earth. A Natural Wonderland… Amazing Animals… Early Pioneers…Native Peoples… A Great Flood… Kinnickinnick… Adventures… The Great Northern Railway.

“Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and will make you truly immortal. — John Muir, “Our National Parks,” 1901

Joshua Tree National Park Kicks-off Restoration Projects

from NPCA

Photo by Alex E. Proimos
Twentynine Palms, Calif. – In partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association, Arrowhead® Brand Mountain Spring Water has announced the first jointly supported, volunteer-based restoration project at the iconic Joshua Tree National Park to help revitalize and restore the park, leading up to its 75th Anniversary.

Breaking ground this weekend, Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water employees will team-up with park officials and community volunteers to restore two highly travelled areas of the park – the Hidden Valley Trailhead and trails leading out to the popular rock climbing area, Houser Buttress.

Once a refuge for cattle rustlers and mountain lions, Hidden Valley is now one of the park’s most popular rock climbing, picnicking and hiking destinations, and it’s in critical need of conservation and restoration efforts.

Among the group of volunteers are Boys and Girls clubs from Yucca Valley and Desert Hot Springs and marines from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center located in Twentynine Palms, CA.

Volunteers will perform critical work to prevent soil erosion and destruction around the trailhead, which has created a slipping hazard to hikers. Volunteers will also eliminate “social trails” created when visitors walk off the designated trail-areas. Additionally, participants will plant native vegetation, lay vertical mulching to curtail erosion, remove wooden ties that line the trail and replace them with rocks to restore the area, and dig postholes for fencing to secure the site. Finally, old trail signage will be replaced with new ones that better describe trails for hikers and help preserve the desert’s natural landscape.

The Park

One hundred and forty miles east of Los Angeles, the 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park features a fragile desert ecosystem. Visitors can explore both “low” and “high” desert landscapes here where the Colorado and the Mojave deserts meet.

Photo by thirteenthbat
Joshua trees are found in the cooler, wetter Mojave in the western portion of the park. Explorer John Fremont reportedly called them “…the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom.”

A member of the Yucca genus, the fast-growing Joshua trees get their name from 19th century Mormons crossing the Mojave Desert who said the trees’ limbs resembled the outstretched arms raised to the heavens in prayer.

The trees, with their multi-fiber trunks and extensive root systems can survive in the desert for hundreds of years, with some trees living up to a thousand years. Joshua trees bloom in the spring, displaying creamy white flowers to complement the dark green spear-shaped leaves.