Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Public lands will change in the US...no matter what

Walter Truett Anderson in New America Media: Memorial Weekend is a time for remembrance and a time when American families gather for picnics in many of America’s public parks. But what many Americans do not know is that our public parks and other protected areas are in trouble – and the trouble goes far deeper than the usual business of too many cars and careless campers. It’s a problem compounded by climate change and a curious policy straitjacket that hampers efforts to respond to it.

…What makes this situation so difficult for the Park Service people is that for several decades they have been clinging to the belief that they should (and could) keep the parks ecosystems from changing – not only keep them the way they are now, but steer them backward into a reasonable facsimile of the way they were several hundred years ago.

… But, as ecologists such as Daniel Botkin, president of the Center for the Study of the Environment, point out, nature changes, too. Weather patterns alter continually. Forests, deserts and other ecosystems shift their boundaries. Populations of plant and animal life rise and fall in ways that can’t be explained by the “balance of nature” assumptions of past centuries.

…Amid this uncertainty, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has been having a running battle with the upper levels of the public lands bureaucracy, charging them to get serious about the impacts of climate change and draw up some clear guidelines about how the agencies should proceed….

Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park, taken by some mute, inglorious Milton of a photographer in the National Park Service, Wikimedia Commons

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