As if it weren’t enough for Congress to meddle in the affairs of the National Park Service , they also want to save the parks from themselves. That is the message in a recent bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would give Congress the right to step in and regulate the parks if the National Park Service’s budget went over a certain amount.
We don’t have to tell you that our National Parks are filled with beautiful and awe-inspiring views of nature—who doesn’t love sitting on a bench and looking at a valley below, the mountains up high, the sky at dusk, or the moon in the night? But, if you think all those wonders can be enjoyed without a bit of motion, think again.
The overuse of our National Parks has been a longstanding issue. Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill that could limit the number of people who can enter National Parks during peak periods. The bill will require that visitors to National Parks purchase a permit, which will limit the number of people who can enter during peak hours. The legislation is part of the National Park Service centennial celebrations, and it was backed by the National Parks Conservation Association.. Read more about national parks are overcrowded and closing their gates and let us know what you think.
Americans are continuing to flock to U.S. National Parks like locusts, desperate for fresh air after months of COVID-19 lockdowns. As a consequence, the National Park Service (NPS) is grappling with how to control crowds and minimize the negative impacts of overtourism on its lands while preserving the visitor experience’s integrity.
Overcrowding causes traffic congestion, parking issues, and lengthy lines to enter the park, as well as increased vandalism, trash, trail erosion, and other environmental damage to park areas.
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According to Lonely Planet, nearly 32 million people visited national parks in July, according to the National Park Service. Although this is somewhat less than the record-breaking 33 million visitors who visited during the same time period in 2020, these exaggerated figures are often more than the parks’ limited personnel and finances can manage.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources conducted a hearing on July 28 to “review the effects of overcrowding in our national parks on park resources and visitor experiences, and to explore strategic methods to visitor usage management,” according to the Senate subcommittee’s website.
The National Parks Conservation Association’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Kristen Brengel, stated, “The increase in visitation is presenting one of the biggest challenges NPS has ever faced.”
“It’s wonderful to see so many Americans enjoying these parks; after all, that’s why we preserve these places in the first place,” said Angus King, chairman of the committee (I-ME). “At the same time, we must acknowledge that overpopulation in parks may damage the natural resources and animals that these units were created to preserve. We may unintentionally fall in love with our parks to the point of obsession.”
According to The Spectrum, King stated, “I believe there is a way ahead that we can create via cooperation and feedback from the local level.” “We don’t have a preconceived solution…we’re going to start this hearing with a predefined issue that we want to address on behalf of the American people.”
With the surge of tourists beginning last year, the National Park Service (NPS) and several particular parks have already taken steps to reduce congestion, such as requiring reservations or implementing timed entrance systems. Some have begun operating shuttle buses to reduce the amount of vehicles accessing park grounds, but this has resulted in shuttle wait periods of up to four hours at Zion this summer. Another approach has been to reroute tourists from congested parks to less-visited ones within the same state.
The parks’ present issues are unlikely to be confined to this summer. , Brengel said, “There is no reason to think that increasing tourism will slow down anytime soon.” “As a result of the pandemic, expanding kinds of leisure, climate change, longer shoulder seasons and decreasing off-seasons, and an increase in distant job possibilities, many parks are expected to experience increased attendance in the future years.”
“This undesirable and harmful visitor behavior suggests unprepared visitors are recreating in parks and evidences a need for more opportunities for visitors to interact with rangers and encounter effective educational messaging,” she said of the rising incidents of graffiti and vandalism in national parks.
Unfortunately, there is still another stumbling block, as Brengel pointed out, since the NPS is already overworked and underfunded. Park workers are stretched tight and confronted with enormous operational difficulties, forcing them to postpone maintenance and failing to meet conservation obligations. “If left unmanaged, the crowds that naturally accompany such high attendance may inadvertently obstruct the NPS’s ability to maintain its conservation goal of protecting and preserving park resources,” Brengel said.
“The interlocking problems of climate change, out-of-date infrastructure, and increasing tourism on our public lands need a concerted response,” she said. While it’s unclear what steps the committee will take to combat overtourism in parks, everyone who attended the meeting was emphatic that something must be done.
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