Friday, September 1, 2006

Conserving Scenery, Natural Historic Objects and the Wildlife Therein

Woodrow Wilson’s instructions are pretty succinct;
“to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”


Woodrowwilson
In 1916 Woodrow Wilson put his signature to the National Park Service Organic Act. He wasn't thinking about natural foods, but the generations to come in America and what was necessary and valuable to save for them from the ravages of commerce. In that second decade of the century, commerce had only begun to ravage, but it was building up a head of steam. In the midst of the First World War, this president thought such things were important.
Woody essentially took what Teddy Roosevelt had created and tucked it neatly within the bosom of the Department of the Interior. The Woody-Teddy compact hardly addressed itself to the automobile, because roads and cars were both more primitive at the time than the millions of acres they sought to preserve.
A mere six presidents later, Eisenhower was lacing the nation together with concrete enough to support the 7,112,926 autos produced in the single 1955 production year. Families took to the road as never before and have scarcely looked back since.
Nationalparktraffic Which has been a boon to the fast-food industry and a disaster to the National Parks. There’s a good deal of hand-wringing about what to do to preserve Yellowstone and Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains and Everglades from the ravages of people as well as the iron horses they ride in on.
Woodrow Wilson’s instructions are pretty succinct;
“to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
In such manner and by such means is where government ran aground, momentum-wise. Big Mo, as Bush-the-father used to call it, pretty much crumpled up Wilson’s dream and tossed it into the wastebasket.
Nationalparkzion Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion states that “the rate of change of the momentum of a body is directly proportional to the net force acting on it, and the direction of the change in momentum takes place in the direction of the net force."
The net force in the case of the parks was (and is) 1) their popularity and 2) their location. Like Muslims to Mecca, pretty much every American hopes to make the pilgrimage to the National Park of their particular choice before they cash in their chips. Usually, as a family. The most popular are, by their very nature, in the boonies, way out beyond the end of the bus-line.
Thus was conceived the family summer trip to (enter park of choice here). And how else to go but by auto? Cause and effect dictate that within the period of a mere six presidents, the first whispers of ruin were heard out where the deer and the antelope were trying to play.
Nationalparkelk Fast-forward nine presidents since Eisenhower and the destination National Parks have become conga-lines of (mostly) Japanese cars, SUVs, pickup-trucks with camper tops, motor-homes and camping trailers. On meadows, sweeping up and away from the roads, mule-deer, elk and the occasional bison gaze down in astonishment.
In 1918, having digested Wilson’s point of view and intent, the Director of the Park Service announced that “the national parks must be maintained in absolutely unimpaired form.” Newton, having proved a greater law than the U.S.Government, watched from his grave as momentum followed net force and proved that those crazy humans in their new invention would overwhelm ‘unimpaired form.’
Monorail_1 So, we’re stuck. Unless we recognize our National Parks as basic Theme Parks and begin to treat them as such. Disney would hardly allow  the incursion of zillions of cars into either his Disney-Land or his Disney-World. Sorry ‘bout that, folks. Park outside and take the people-mover.
Although Walt Disney fits nowhere among the fifteen presidents since Wilson, he had a point. Suspended monorail is the ideal way to actually see the National Parks instead of studying the license plate of the car ahead. Take in the grandeur instead of getting short-tempered with the kids when traffic piles up for six miles to look at a moose. Additionally,
  • It’s the best way to drop hikers at trail heads and pick them up at other trail heads
  • The easiest and least problematic access for trout fishermen
  • By far the best method for bringing supply and staff in, refuse out
  • Supportive of wildlife, allowing for free movement under the suspended tramways
  • Cuts maintenance costs by an as yet unknown, but huge percentage.
  • Brings both quiet and clean air to areas that we visit for quiet and clean air.
Monorail2 A capital investment? Yeah, but 'maintained in absolutely unimpaired form' presumes a level of capital outlay. Outside the parks, hotel, parking and other services concession fees might contribute to those costs. Or (probably wiser) the Park Service might retain for itself keep those services in order to maintain quality and offset operating expenses.
There’s little doubt that wildlife, left to the quiet enjoyment of their natural environment, would soon graze like cattle as virtually silent overhead observation cars move over them. There would be plenty of stops to access this or that geyser, overview this or that vista, have coffee or a picnic, take off on a trail head or pack in for a morning of fishing.
Wilson and Roosevelt would love it. So will American (and foreign) families.
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Other comments on the state of the Parks;