By Staff Writer Ian Hsu, Sahana Sridhar & Kelly Yang
From Native American reserves to hiking trails and waterfalls, our nation’s natural parks not only add to the planet’s natural beauty but house thousands of different plants and animals. However, after the Trump administration’s recent decision to remove more than two million acres of land from Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, the controversy behind nature preservation has only intensified. In this coverage, the Smoke Signal presents background information on some of America’s national parks and weighs in on the importance of protecting the country’s reserves.
The Importance of Reserves:
Our country is home to a vast spectrum of natural phenomena, from trickling waterfalls hidden in the crevices of jagged cliffs to trees that almost touch the sun. Today, many such spectacles can only be found tucked away in the safety of national parks. Preserving these parks is incredibly important. In addition to the countless research opportunities and tourist attractions within these reserves, Native American ancestral lands are scattered throughout national parks, which are worth preserving out of human decency and respect. Reserves serve as the homes for many of the nation’s last jewels, and preserving them is an obligation that every person should bear.
Under the new presidential administration, the National Park Service has been undergoing difficult times due to President Donald Trump cutting land from multiple National Monument parks like the Bear Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase National Park via his executive order. This erases the traces of Native American culture present within these parks. Many of these Native American tribes have stayed on this land for generations, making it personally significant and representative of their growth. After the reduction, the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, the Navajo Nation, and the Ute Indian tribes have filed a lawsuit against Trump and several Trump administration officials. In doing so, they established the land as not only ecologically beneficial, but culturally as well.
Although some might argue that the land allocated for national parks would be better used for new factories and mines, it is important to realize that the natural land itself is a valuable resource. Many national parks, such as Grand-Staircase, are biological hotspots that contain rare and diverse species, and the beauty held by many of these parks deserves to stay preserved for future generations to enjoy; to remove this land from national parks would be subjecting the many species in it to danger.
Many might agree with national park reduction due to the cost of maintaining the land. However, the money that the monuments generate gives way to an extremely lucrative enterprise; national parks themselves are essential to the tourism industry. In many remote cities, the tourists that visit these national parks may be the local community’s primary source of income. For example, the small town of Skagway, Alaska makes most of its income during the summer when a wave of tourists come to visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Park. Without visitors flocking to the attraction, the economy of this area would certainly be less vibrant. In 2015, tourism in US national parks generated $32 billion, which combined with travel, makes up 2.7 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Moreover, this industry supports nearly 300,000 jobs, a reflection of the major impact that these reserves have on the economy.
Whether we fight to preserve America’s national parks to bask in their beauty and cultural significance or to preserve the possibility of potential scientific discoveries, it is in our best interest to do so. National monuments add to the vibrancy of our country, from economic benefits to opportunities for leisure.
- 1836: Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes Nature, one of the first writings on the inherent value of wildlife beyond sustenance and profit
- 1872: President Ulysses S. Grant establishes the first national park at Yellowstone, with 3,348 square miles
- 1891: Congress passes the Forest Reserve Act and creates Shoshone National Forest, the nation’s first federally reserved forest reserve
- 1900: Congress passes the Lacey Game and Wild Birds Preservation and Disposition Act, making it a federal offense to transport illegally taken wild game across state borders.
- 1913: Pennsylvania becomes the first state to issue hunting licenses
- 1916: Congress creates the National Park Service.
- 1962: Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, documenting the potentially harmful impacts of pesticides on wildlife. By some accounts this book launched the modern environmental movement.
- 1964: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Wilderness Act into law.
- President Bush establishes three marine national monuments, which protect nearly 200,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean
Status of National Park Service Under Trump:
The National Park Service under President Trump will face some large changes in the 2018 fiscal year. The proposed budget would increase funding for energy development on public lands, but the Trump administration plans to reduce the US Department of Interior’s budget by 12 percent, which will cut roughly 1,200 National Park Service jobs.
National Park Summaries:
Grand Canyon National Park:
Arizona’s renowned Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919 after many failed congressional bills in the 19th century. In 1979, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization declared it a World Heritage site. Since then, the park has continued to uphold its reputation as one of the most-visited monuments in the world. Its orange-red canyons and winding rivers consistently serve as a magnet for tourism.
Coyote Hills Regional Park:
The Bay Area’s own Coyote Hills Park has housed the simple beauty of rolling prairie hills and serene hiking trails since its establishment in 1967. In 2014, the park’s area expanded by 296 acres of land after a donation from millionaire landowner Wilcox Patterson. Today, it extends for more than a thousand acres, featuring seasonal wetland, riparian forest, and freshwater marshland habitats. The park contains multiple salt evaporation tanks within its marshes as well, making the park both a tourist attraction and an economic resource.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument:
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, located in Utah, was declared a national park in 1996 by then President Bill Clinton and was recently reduced to half its size and split up into three different monuments by the Trump administration. The park’s formidable canyons and cliffs stack to form a staircase-like shape, hence its name. Although much of the park is no longer recognized as a national monument, what is still left remains a trademark of Utah’s geography.
Giant Sequoia National Monument:
Established in 2000, Giant Sequoia National Park is home to the world’s largest tree species. Spanning more than 300,000 acres, the CA park fosters more than 33 sequoia groves and hundreds of animal species. From huge monoliths to glacier-carved canyons, Giant Sequoia National Park is a classic embodiment of CA’s diverse scenery.
Ironwood Forest National Monument:
The 129,000 acres that constitute Ironwood Forest house silver mines, jagged mountain peaks, and thousands of cacti species. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the monument also has some of the richest soil in Arizona. From resource mines to aesthetic appeal, Ironwood Forest is one of the richest and most diversified monuments in the state. Situated primarily in the Sonoran Desert, Ironwood Forest offers tourist attractions such as peaceful hiking trails, tours through abandoned ghost towns, and old mine visits.
Bears Ears National Monument:
Yet another one of Arizona’s many natural works of art, the Bears Ears monument is home to multiple Native American tribes that have established their homes among red rock bluffs and canyons. After the Trump administration’s recent decision to cut the land, Bears Ears only spans over 15 percent of the original 1.35 million acre park. Established in 2016, the park is still a renowned tourist attraction, offering opportunities to fish, camp, and climb.