Monday, July 13, 2009

California poised to shut gates on great outdoors as parks struggle with budgets

Suzanne Goldenberg in the Guardian (UK): Faced with a £16bn budget shortfall, California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, says the parks must economise. It is hard to envisage a no-entry sign tagged to a towering redwood tree. But the recession – writ on an epic scale in California's proposal to close 220 state parks – is forcing the American public to confront the closure of the great outdoors.

… Conservationists are meanwhile arguing that California cannot afford not to. And this week the federal government appeared to partly agree, with the National Parks Service threatening to seize some of the sites if Schwarzenegger goes ahead with the closures.

The proposed shutdown of the parks would affect 80% of California's nature reserves, historic sites and recreation areas, and restrict access to 30% of the state's coastline. Affected areas would stretch from the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas to the beaches and wetlands of Big Sur, and to the deserts of San Diego, where some of the last peninsular bighorn sheep roam.

California is not alone. The crisis has also exposed hitherto hidden casualties of the economic downturn, with states from Oregon to Illinois, and New York to Tennessee, struggling to stretch resources….

Albert Bierstadt's 1872 "California Redwoods"

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