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Quo vadis, NPS?
on June 27, 2011
How does the National Park Service protect official wilderness areas, let alone live up to its 1916 Organic Act in general, which calls on it to "preserve unimpaired for future generations America's great parks, in the face of declining visitation, budget cuts, an attempt to put a smiley face on parks' situation, and the 800-pound gorilla of global warming?
Species migration ... until a species can't migrate any more, species die-=off, and human change of nature in general, to a degree and in a way that wasn't recognized possible when the NPS was founded, are in this mix. So, too, is the recognition, part of modern studies of American Indians, that even places like the High Country of Kings Canyon, weren't "natural" before European arrival.
The story of Tweed hiking the John Muir and High Sierra trails through wilderness parts of Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, and intervening national forest, would be worth a five-star book by itself (with pictures!), but this hike is a reflective background for the issues that Tweed ruminates on throughout the book, and to which he offers tentative answers at the end.
He offers three options, which aren't exclusive of one another if practices within separate confines of larger national parks.
One is an ecology museum, which in Sequoia would naturally focus on protection of the sequoias in places like the Giants Grove. This might be something as basic as irrigation and fertilization. The museum angle is done already in Hawaii to protect against invasive species, but it's highly expensive.
The second is the "mitigation" angle ... helping sequoias, pikas and everything in between in size that needs to move .. move! But, Tweed asks, will the pubilc support Sequoia NP if most the sequoias aren't in park bou8ndaries any more?
That applies even more to option 3, which is ... "let nature adapt." This is the option with the least "management" involved, but the one that could wind up with the most drastic changes. That has its own problems, vis-a-vis the public relations mandate also part of the NPS's Organic Act.
For lovers of our national parks, for lovers of federal wilderness in general, and lovers of nature in general, this is a must read book.