America’s Out of doors Recreation Act Of 2022 Wants Assist

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Better access to public lands is welcome, but should go hand in hand with better protection of those lands and their natural resources.

Recreational interests were understandably excited when the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources sent America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022 to the Senate, but there are flaws in the measure that increase risks to states and the flora and fauna that depend on them.

The measure, voted unanimously by the committee earlier this month, aims to “To improve and grow America’s outdoor recreation economy while providing sustainable economic momentum to rural communities.” But the legislature fails to pursue that outcome no specific protection for the now flooded public lands or the wildlife and vegetation that depend on those lands.

Anyone who enjoys the national park system knows that there are parks that are badly affected by overcrowding.

  • Rocky Mountain National Park has seen a 44 percent increase in visitor numbers since 2012. The rapid growth in daily use and changing usage patterns in the park have degraded natural and cultural resources, reduced the quality of the visitor experience, and increased safety concerns from visitors and staff. and caused severe strain on the park’s facilities and ability to conduct day-to-day operations. For now, reservations are needed until park resource conservation efforts and national park experience result in a solid management plan.
  • Director of the National Parks Service, Chuck Sams, was asked to brief the Senate National Parks Subcommittee on the problems with high visitor numbers in some corners of the national park system. “As visitor numbers have increased dramatically at top destination parks over the past decade, it is important that we are made aware of the positive and negative impacts so the committee can better address the situation,” wrote Sens. Angus King, a Maine independent, and Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, in their plea to Sams.
  • Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming saw nearly 5 million visitors last year, while Acadia National Park surpassed 4 million visitors for the first time. At Shenandoah National Park in Virginia this year, tickets are required to hike to Old Rag to reduce crowding.
  • Officials at Glacier National Park in Monanta last year tried to even out crowds and protect natural resources by resorting to a ticketing system for visitors interested in driving the Going-to-the-Sun road. This system returns this year.
  • Arches National Park in Utah has implemented a reservation system for visitors, and Zion National Park requires all states to make reservations for those wishing to stand on Angels Landing.
  • The list of record-breaking parks in terms of visitor numbers in 2021 includes the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia, and Capitol Reef National Parks in Utah. Zion National Park has passed the 5 million mark for the first time.

The strain is exacerbating Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog, which is carrying a brand-new price tag of $21.8 billion.

While the legislation directs state land managers to “evaluate the impacts of current and planned future recreational uses on natural, cultural and other resources,” senators are not asking land managers to prevent impacts. When it comes to wildlife, the legislation simply requires land managers to “consider” ways to minimize any impact.

And senators have completely ignored the over-crowded pressure on the national park system. Instead, the goal of this legislation is for state land managers to focus on the “development, expansion, or improvement of the recreational resource.”

“Our bipartisan legislation is a monumental achievement for all who enjoy our public lands and shared natural resources,” said US Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican who is the senior member of the committee. “It will improve and streamline access to nature and simplify governmental processes and improve America’s recreational infrastructure.”

But it also ignores previous instructions from Congress for the National Park Service to determine the carrying capacity for their parks, which very few have done. For those old enough to remember, it was the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 that directed park wardens to identify “visitor capacities for all areas of the unit” in their park’s general management plans.

Where are these plans?

Back in May 2010, the late Michael Frome, an environmental journalism giant who lamented the overdevelopment of national park landscapes and who was among the best at tracking the country’s ecological development, told me, “About twenty years ago they were it Speaking of carrying capacity. ‘Let’s determine the carrying capacity of the park.’ Now they’re talking about, ‘Let’s get more people in so we can get more money.’ Carrying capacity is out the window so I would say our parks have definitely deteriorated.”

Has it gotten better since 2010?

As we established two years ago, more visitors certainly means more business and tax revenue, but visitors overflow more than a few parks where natural and human resources are being overstretched and compromised.

Diverse and plentiful recreational opportunities are a boon to the country, but they must be carefully provided.

If senators truly want to create the “first comprehensive recovery package since 1963 that will improve and expand America’s outdoor recreation economy while providing sustainable economic boost to rural communities,” they must make specific provisions to protect states and water bodies, their wildlife, and their communities Federal supervisor of the desired additional recovery.